Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Shrinking Newsroom

Any PR professional knows that Public Relations is based around timeliness, what is current, what is new and especially what is newsworthy. In a world with literally hundreds of media outlets right at our fingertips, an interesting concept to discuss is the reality of the shrinking newsroom and how to adapt PR practice accordingly.

PRsay (a PRSA affiliate) author Philip Tate discusses what he considers to be the benefits and the frustrations that accompany the shrinking newsroom. The following are some important points that Tate discussed about how media has evolved in his professional experience.

Tate said that although there have been cuts in newsroom staff, local newsrooms have endured in keeping "six out of every eight reporters." The number of investigative reporters have actually increased in recent years, he said. Tate also emphasized how it is not that certain departments have necessarily been cut out completely, but that reporters need to be more well versed and write on a variety of subjects rather than simply just one specialty.

Lastly, Tate said the major implications for "the shrinking newsroom" for Public Relations professionals is to work harder to find the most timely information and distribute it as quickly as possible. The focus of the newsroom is still gathering newsworthy information in the ever-changing world of media.

To read the full article and learn more about Tate's perspective on the "shrinking newsroom" click here.

This guest blog was written by staff member Michele Reilley.

Friday, July 30, 2010

How Soon Do We Forget?

In "The Biggest Corporate Image Catastrophes" on Investopedia.com's Financial Edge, writer Stephen Simpson, CFA discusses several corporate blunders that got past the "well-greased PR machine of the corporate world."

Some are more recent than others. How many do you remember?

1. BP: Tone-deaf comments from the now-former CEO quickly led to a thundering backlash after the recent well explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

2. Goldman Sachs: Goldman was allegedly misleading some of its customers, paying huge bonuses and essentially lecturing the government on how things ought to be. Goldman did not do anything new or anything that its peers have not done - it was just clumsy enough to do it in front of microphones at precisely the time when the public wanted contrition and modesty.

3. Toyota: After laughable excuses for a problem with a sticky accelerator in some models, including blaming the floor mats, Toyota ultimately acknowledged the problem and launched a recall. But in waiting so long to fess up to the problem, Toyota lost its gold-plated reputation as being a better kind of car company.

4. The "Big Three" (Ford, Chrysler, General Motors): After being bailed out of bankruptcy with tax payers' dollars, auto industry executives made their job even harder when they flew to Washington, D.C. - aboard private jets - to plead their poverty in front of the Congress.

5. JetBlue: On a snowy Valentine's Day in 2007, JetBlue kept several plane loads of passengers sitting on the tarmac for hours - with one plane being held captive for nine hours.

6. Abercrombie & Fitch: The youth retailer has been in hot water with the public for print ads, questionable taste, racist t-shirts, or company hiring policies that put the less-than-beautiful people in the back room.

To read the full article, click here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Things I Didn't Think I Would Have to Know

One of the things I loved about being a Communications major in college was that I was required to take any business classes and only two math classes. It wasn't until my senior year of college that the realization set in that I would someday have to figure out how to pay back my student loans and how to contribute to a 401(k).

After talking with some business professors and finding books to read about these topics, I was still feeling a little lost. Then I decided to attend a financial presentation for college students at the Fox School of Business. The program covered topics like investments, student loans and credit. It was also directed by Fox School Alums, so they had an understanding of what it's like to be a Temple Student.

When I started my new job in June 2010 I felt comfortable talking about the options for investing in a 401(k) and I understood a lot of what was being presented to me. I'm also not as nervous to start paying back loans because I have a better understanding of how to tackle the situation, thanks to attending the program.

My advice? Take a business class no matter what your major is, look for programs like the one I attended last spring, and be prepared to deal with topics outside your area of study in the "real world." Just because you didn't go to college for finance, doesn't mean it won't school you when you graduate.

*Temple students: The program I attended last April was called "Spring Forward" and it was presented by the Fox School of Business Alumni Association. Keep an eye out for a program like it next spring!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ten Tips for Making Your Event a Success

As my time is slowly winding down as the summer development events intern at The Franklin Institute, I am very happy to say that the event that I cried blood, sweat and tears over was a huge success last week. Throughout my internship, I learned a great deal about event planning and all of the hard work and time that is invested into a successful event. I had the wonderful opportunity to develop a great set of key skills that include conceptual design, vendor negotiations, budget proposals and event presentations.

So, as a way of reflecting on my experience this summer, I thought I would share with everyone I great article from The Buzz Bin I came across that lists 10 tips for making any event a successful one.

1. Start Early: There is no such thing as having too much time to plan an event. For large-scale events, start planning four to five months in advance. For smaller events, one to two months is reasonable. Try to finalize all major contracts (venue and vendors) a full month before the event date.

2. Create a Retroplanning Document: Start with the day of the event, and create a detailed list backtracking every task that needs to happen, assigning each a firm deadline and responsible team member. Some deadlines may change, but use it as the master reference for your team, everyone checking things off as they get accomplished.

3. Negotiate with Vendors: Everything is negotiable – even when they tell you it’s not. Before a conversation with a vendor, make a list of everything you need from them, determine your budget and then give them a number that is 5 – 10% lower. There are always unforeseen costs (post-event taxes, service fees, etc), so allow some wiggle room. Go through the proposal with a fine-tooth comb and tell them which sections of the estimate are too high. Vendors are up against dozens of competitors and will almost always give you a discount to win your business.

4. Divide and Conquer: Assign portions of the event to each team member. If everyone has ownership of a piece of the puzzle (set-up, registration, catering), details are less likely to slip through the cracks and team members will feel more involved.

5. Make it Social: Events are a great way to harness your client’s social media presence. Leave a sign-in sheet for guests’ twitter handles. Create a custom hashtag for the event and encourage attendees to tweet about it. Post pictures of the event on the company blog or Facebook page and allow guests to tag themselves.

6. Create an Event Bible: You can plan for months and months, but the day-of will almost always be hectic. Put together a simple binder with all of your vendor contracts, extra copies of the floor plan, and a cheat sheet of contact information for easy reference.

7. Have a Plan B for EVERYTHING: Something will be late, something won’t arrive at all, and something will most certainly go very, very wrong. Anticipate which aspects will more significantly affect your event and create backup plans for each.

8. Do a Mental Walk-Through before The Real One: About two weeks before the event, mentally walk through every minute of the event, from set-up to break down. You’ll be surprised how many last minute tasks you catch. Then schedule the final venue walk-through a week before the event, and you’ll be prepared with all the last-minute details.

9. Take Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures: Pictures are the best way to illustrate an event’s success. If there’s budget, hire a photographer and create a specific shot list (a shot of the full room, a focus on branding, etc.). If not, assign a team member to the task and equip them with a high-quality camera. For many clients, if there’s not a picture of it for the recap, it didn’t happen.

10. Send the Recap out ASAP: It’s natural to want to shift down a few gears when the event is over. You’re tired, it’s over and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. But get in early the next day to put together the post-event brief. Arrange for your photographer to send you a few choice photos that you can upload immediately. While your client is still buzzing from a well-executed event, send them a beautiful recap touting all of the successes. And then once you’ve press send, collapse and sleep for days.


I know that during my time at The Franklin Institute, each and every one of these tips were utilized in one way or another. Planning an event can be incredibly stressful and time consuming, however with a great set of organizational skills and a keen eye for detail anyone can create an amazing and memorable event.

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any of your own to add? Let us know!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beware of Job Scams!

The other day I received an email from a recruitment coordinator saying that they had seen my resume online and would be interested in interviewing me for a sales position within the next two weeks. This seemed odd to me, because I did not recall posting my resume on the website they mentioned. The email was in a template form and did not mention anything specific about my resume, only that my background and qualifications made me a strong candidate for the position. This gave me the feeling that the email was sent as a mass email which they only personalized by inserting my name at the top.

I wasn't interested in the position described in the email, but I decided to Google the name of the company anyways to find out what they were about. Sure enough, I found many websites where people described experiences similar to mine. Some people wrote that they did respond to the email, only to find out that it was a scam.

Scammers are taking advantage of how many people are currently out of work and looking for jobs. They realize that many people are applying for jobs online, so they have started sending emails and fake job applications in the hopes of tricking people into revealing personal information.

An article from CNN.com gives some tips for spotting a job scam. Here is my summary of the key points:

1. No legitimate job will ask you for money.
2. Beware of ads that make outrageous claims, don't specify job duties and don't require a resume.
3. If "work from home" appears in the header, it is probably a scam. Working from home should not be part of a job title and is often used as bait by scammers.
4. Miracles do happen, but it is not likely that they will appear in your inbox on their own.
5. Much like kidnappers, scammers often catch their prey by dangling enticing things in front of them. Don't fall for promises that sound too good to be true.
6. Beware of emails that come from well-known companies but carry a "free" email address (such as gmail, aol, etc.) for reply. Scammers have used the names and websites of reputable companies to fool job seekers.

Do you have any other tips to help job seekers protect themselves against job scams?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Find Food on Twitter!

Here in Philadelphia, food trucks are very popular. Trucks park along curbs all over the city and serve hot food at cheap prices--on the fly. At Temple alone, I can think of over 15 food trucks lining various streets on campus. Many people have their favorite foods they like to get from their favorite trucks.

But what happens if one day your food truck isn't parked where it normally would be? Enter Twitter onto the scene.

That's right, food trucks all over the country are tapping the power of Twitter to keep their faithful customers abreast of their location.

Twitter is also facilitating a change in the types of cuisine that can be found on the streets. In California, as discussed in an article I recently read in Food and Wine Magazine, it is a rising trend for famous chefs to serve their cuisine out of trucks that allow them to travel around the city. Author Salma Abdelnour has credited social media for the success of these new "catch-me-if-you-can" entrepreneurial ventures. Some such trucks have amassed as many as 63,000 followers on Twitter, as people "chase" the trucks through the city for a chance to sample these fine foods.

Pretty cool, if you ask me. The power of social media never ceases to amaze me!

Click here to view Food and Wine Magazine's list of top restaurants, food trucks and and carts to follow on Twitter.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do You Like This?

You know that little button Facebook is famous for? Did you know the "Like" button can be added to other websites?

An article on Mashable details how to add the "like" button to other websites. A new application allows website users to add the "like" button in order for viewers to like their site. Over 350,000 sites have added the "like" button.

Read the article here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Facebook Hits 500 Million Users and is Only Growing Stronger

For social media users all over the world, Facebook has become a portal of communication, a transportable yearbook, a free marketing tool, or a way to organize events. On July 22, 2010, Facebook announced that they officially hit 500 million users, which is approximately a 500% increase in users in a mere two years. With this networking site growing so fast, the company is constantly working towards innovation. A recent article from Ragan.com outlined five predictions for the Facebook empire:

1. Optimized Aggregator of All Content on All Platforms (including mobile) for Individuals and their Friends: The website intends to have increased features that allow videos and other multi-media content, and will also expand Facebook mobile, enabling users to share and find more content through the website.
2. Portals and Websites for Businesses: Today, many businesses create a Facebook page before they even create a website!
3. Blogging Platform Replacement: Although blogs are likely to remain popular to those of us who are interested in writing and PR, writing a note on Facebook is significantly easier than creating and updating a blog for the average user.
4. Monetizing will Continue to Grow: Since Facebook is able to specify gender, age, career, location, interests and other key demographics, it has proven to be an incredible marketing tool.
5. Continual Integration With Every Corner Of The Web: Facebook has added the “like” option to a wide range of websites, which may be just the beginning of their integration with other websites.

As Facebook grows (and approaches the billions!), it has changed from a way to keep in touch with your friends and family to a multipurpose, multi-million dollar website.

As the site continues evolve, perhaps we should all ask ourselves: how can we change the way we use Facebook to take advantage of the site’s expanding list of benefits?

Friday, July 23, 2010

6 Tips for Finding a PR Job After College

It might seem a little early to start worrying about finding a full-time job in May 2011, but I think the earlier you start preparing the better. Maybe it's because I'm on the five year plan to two degrees, but I started thinking about the job search with my graduating peers during the spring. A few of my friends got jobs in November 2009, some got them right before graduation, and others just got them or are still struggling. Especially in these times, you don't just automatically get a job because you have a degree and put a few applications out there. It takes preparation to competitively position yourself against the millions of other graduating seniors all over the country, every single year. That's why I want to get a head start.

It seemed fortuitous that I had an informational interview this morning and was thinking about the job search when I opened my e-mail inbox and one of the articles featured on PR Daily was "6 Tips for Finding a PR Job after College" by Jacqueline Akbarian. Perfect!

Although you have probably heard some of the tips before, it doesn't hurt to reinforce them. I have also inserted my own advice into some of the points.

1. Be persistent - Don't be discouraged by "no" or no answer when applying. You will most likely apply to far more jobs than you get interviews. Stay motivated!

2. Build your network - Build your network online and offline. Use social media tools to connect with professionals in your geographic and/or interest area, join networking organizations (Young Professionals Network, www.ypnphilly.com, is a great one in Philadelphia), and don't forget that even though your professors are in the classroom now, it doesn't mean they aren't well connected. The article states that 80 percent of people get jobs through someone they know. Leverage your relationships!

3. In-person, surprise visit - Be a go-getter and show up at the corporate office. Depending on the corporate culture, they may be annoyed at you for interrupting their day or perhaps they will admire your ambition and it will help you land your dream job.

4. Follow-up - The article suggests calling about a week after you submitted an application if you haven't heard anything. On another note, make sure to follow-up with a "thank you" after any interview you have. This should be within 1-3 days.

5. Be professional and classy (all the time) - You never know who you're going to meet, and when you're going to meet them.

6. Keep an open mind - Don't settle for something you hate, but realize that you may need more experience and your dream job may be one step further in your career.


I look forward to keeping you updated on the job search and would love to hear about yours as well! Graduates, do you have any tips that helped you land your first full-time job after college?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Great Summer Read

Summer is a time where most of us look forward to enjoying some well-deserved relaxation. However, between BlackBerries, iPhones, laptops and wifi it's difficult to completely disconnect. Have you ever planned on having a relaxing dinner, or on going to bed early, when you receive an urgent email that completely distracts you? I think we ALL have!


That's precisely why William Powers' new book Hamlet's BlackBerry immediately intrigued me. He wrote it as a 'practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age' aimed at helping readers unplug from technology and be fully present around family and friends. Powers understands how difficult this can be, especially when so many people are married to their jobs as well as their spouses. The proof is in the pudding for Powers who practices this philosophy in his own life. To counteract his family's connectedness they have weekend 'dead time' where their modem is unplugged and cell phones are turned off. He claims to see a huge improvement in family communication that brings them closer together and has lasting effects throughout the week.

Powers also theorizes that constant connectivity both fragments our social network and distracts us from our own internal dialogue. When you're tending to relationships through several different avenues of communication (tweet, wall post, text, e-mail) it has an isolating effect. Keeping tabs on your friends and loved ones digitally just isn't sufficient as it's missing a human element. Similarly, all of this digital communication distracts us so much that we don't have time to think anymore. Our thoughts are so jumbled from the buzzing, beeping or flashing we don't have the chance to take a look around and 'smell the roses'.

Powers knows that the digital world is here to stay and doesn't expect readers to stop using technology all together. He's simply suggesting better ways to balance connectivity with real life, one-on-one communication so we can live happier, less stressed lives. As PR professionals we know the importance of connectedness all too well and it's good for us to take a deep breath and relax every once in a while!

Read a July 20th interview with William Powers by NPR and an excerpt from Hamlet's Blackberry here. How do you feel about the pervasiveness of digital connectivity today? Is it a friend or foe?




Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Worldwide Connected Travel with Gtrot

I may not have the available funds in my bank account to be the traveling fiend that I yearn to be, however, I do on occasion find the opportunity to pack my bags and explore.

I recently took a little trip to a small beach that I had never visited before but had heard several great recommendations about. While I was visiting, I ran into two friends from high school that I hadn't seen in a few years- a great added bonus to my vacation. It was crazy to think that we all would have been in the same small town at the same time without having a clue if chance hadn't brought us together.

It is experiences such as these that served as the inspiration for gtrot, a web portal used for helping travelers better sync up their plans with their globetrotting friends. Started by Harvard alum Zachary Smith, the website is now home to over 3,000 users.

The website links users' Facebook profiles to pull in information on their friends who have entered rough travel itineraries into the gtrot site and plots the plans on a map. Your gtrot account creates a travel profile that includes previous trips, future plans and modes of transportation. The site also allows you to directly book flights, hotels and and cabs through Kayak.com and Hotels.com and then puts that information into your profile (you can choose to keep it private as well).

Gtrot allows travelers to connect with friends to plan trips and also allows users who have already booked vacations to see if any friends will be in the surrounding areas.

The second phase of the company is now in the works- one that will focus on integrating users' social media posts about their travels and placing them into their travel logs. This way, travelers can not only see where their friends have visited but also read about their various experiences at different venues and locations. Gtrot will utilize tweets, Facebook updates and foursquare check ins to generate an extensive travel log of every traveler.

The website's next plan is to enrich travelers' experiences by connecting users with Groupons- the fastest growing source of group-powered discounts for entertainment, food and salon-type venues.

As a traveler, I am incredibly excited to create my own profile on gtrot and connect with friends all over the world. I think the site is an incredibly useful tool that will only serve to enhance all of my future travel experiences.

Check out the rest of the article on gtrot here to learn more about the great upcoming site.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Old Spice Personalizes Viral Marketing

Old Spice has taken viral marketing and social media to a new level through their most recent campaign.

The campaign began with commercials featuring NFL wide receiver turned actor Isaiah Mustafa, now known as the Old Spice guy. The commercials portrayed Mustafa as "the man your man could smell like," a man seeming to posses all of the qualities women want in a man.

On July 13, Old Spice tweeted, "Today could be just like the other 364 days you log into twitter, or maybe the Old Spice man shows up @OldSpice." Hours later, Old Spice fans and followers began receiving video responses from the Old Spice guy in reply to their comments and tweets.

The recipients of the video responses included celebrities, other companies and everyday social media users. In each video, the Old Spice guy addressed the recipient by name, repeated their comment and then replied with a witty response in his "the man your man could smell like" voice. All while standing in front of a shower wearing just a towel around his waist.

Other companies have been commended for their personal responses to consumers through social media, but Old Spice went above and beyond with these videos. What do you think about Old Spice's tactic? Can other companies successfully pull off similar campaigns, or will nothing compare to the original?

To see Mashable's picks for the top 10 funniest Old Spice guy responses, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In the classrooms of the future, will technology aid cheaters or stop them?

Some argue that the advancement of technology, like cell phones with Internet technology, have made it easier for students to cheat in the classroom.

But it may also be the answer to stopping it. The University of Central Florida has developed a testing center that New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel said may be "the frontier in the battle to stop student cheating."

Students taking tests there must adhere to strict rules; tests are taken on computers hidden in recessed desk tops; and proctors can use cameras to zoom in on and record the actions of students who are potentially cheating.

Part of the problem, according to some educators, is not always blatant cheating but rather that some students no longer regard practices like copying and pasting material from the Internet as cheating. Technology is helping to curb such misconceptions about academic integrity, too. At universities across the country, students are increasingly required to complete online courses about plagiarism and to use websites like turnitin.com to check schoolwork for unoriginal material.

I think it is unfortunate that some of today's students have stooped so low to rip off other people's work that universities have been forced to take these measures. However, I think these new technologies are interesting. Critics say that such technologies operate under the presumption of guilt. How do you feel about the use of technology to crack down on cheating in the classroom? Do you think it violates students' privacy and undermines a positive and optimistic classroom environment? Or do you see it as the answer?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

SS United States, the Next Historic Attraction

A huge public relations effort awaits as the SS United States Conservancy has secured the funding it needs to purchase the SS United States and begin redevelopment and refurbishing plans. The money for the purchase comes from a donation by Philadelphia philanthropist H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest.

If everything goes accordingly, the opening of the ship will be a PR bonanza. The conservancy group wants to turn this ship, the largest ocean liner ever built in the US, into a historical and flamboyant attraction. Potential plans could include restaurants, museums, hotels, and shopping and entertainment settings. Such plans would also provide hundreds, if not thousands of jobs both during the ship’s renovation and once it is competed.

The completed project would be a major draw for the city lucky enough to win berthing for the SS United States. Presently, both New York and Philadelphia appear to be under consideration. The winning city will require a significant amount of public relations work for the project to succeed.

This guest blog was written by staff member Trish Wyatt.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Creating a Useful Online Newsroom

For the past few months I have been exploring the possibility of a career in Investor Relations. I have done research online, read books, and scheduled informational interviews with several distinguished professionals in the field. When doing my company research before going into these informational interviews, I heavily relied on the information provided in their online newsrooms and investor centers. I found that some sites were easier to navigate, some provided more concise yet informative descriptions about the company, and some were better linked together than others.

Although investor centers in a publicly traded company's website should be tailored to the information an investor or an analyst may be seeking, it is much harder to determine what is important to have in a general online newsroom. Online newsrooms do not have as specific of an audience; people visiting the site may include media representatives, employees, students, consumers, some inquisitive people, and many more.

As public relations students/professionals, we need to be skilled in a variety of areas, including writing website content and developing online newsrooms that are useful to all of our audiences.

Jessica Levco outlines 10 things to attract and enlighten journalists in the article "Create an online newsroom that reporters will love."

1. List contact information - Include phone and fax numbers, e-mails, and any social media identifiers
2. Make it easy to find - Put the link on the top of the homepage
3. Keep the URL short and simple - Follow the format "news.companyname.com"
4. Make press releases searchable
5. Talk about your competitors - Become the preferred provider of news in that specific industry
6. Include a subscribe button - Allow subscriptions by e-mail, text or RSS feed
7. Eliminate passwords - Don't put more hurdles than necessary to access information
8. Include copyright information - Protect your information by asking for attribution
9. Provide multimedia content - Include photos, graphics, videos, podcasts and press kits
10. List bios of key executives - Include biographical information, their experience and responsibilities

Do you have any other insight into what aspects make an online newsroom useful?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cover Letters: The Icing on the Cake

For the last few weeks, I have been relentlessly searching for an internship for the upcoming fall semester. During the entire process, I have come to understand and appreciate the importance of a cover letter and its pivotal role in my success in securing an internship.

I'll be the first to fess up that I used to find cover letters redundant and tedious. Having to sit down and write a cover letter that was tailored specifically to each individual company seemed so daunting and time consuming.

However, after reading numerous articles, tips and tricks for writing a successful cover letter, I used this advice to help write numerous cover letters, all of which have helped me distinguish myself from other applicants and have secured me a couple of interviews.


With my new-found respect for cover letters, I wanted to share with everyone some of the advice I applied to my own cover letters from Resume-Resource.

When writing a cover letter you should include the following:
1. The job you are applying for
2. How you found out about the job
3. Why you are interested in the position
4. What qualifies you to do the work
5. Examples of related achievements
6. A closing summary of your qualifications
7. Your desire to meet for an interview

Cover letters should be clear, concise, energetic and professional. Be sure to clarify what employers want to know:

1. Can you handle the responsibilities of the job?
2. Do you enjoy your work?
3. Are you a professional and will you fit in with my staff?

If your cover letter answers 'yes' to all of these questions than your resume will receive more than a simple glance.

Also, be sure to let your employer know that you are the best possible candidate for the position. Indicate how you will contribute immediately to current projects. Make sure you quantify your previous work. The entire purpose of a cover letter is to make yourself appealing to the prospective employer by showing your energy, enthusiasm, passion and professionalism.

So always remember to take your time, write several drafts and include all of the necessary information. Your resume may be incredible, but if your cover letter is a snooze, your desired first impression may fall a little flat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

PR Around the Clock

I think most PR professionals would agree that their public relations duties do not always end once they leave the office. Even though the work day may end at 5 o'clock, the world does not stop turning then.

This is especially true for those who work for organizations such as the American Red Cross, where I am interning this summer. Since disasters can occur at any time, the Red Cross provides emergency relief 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means important situations involving the Red Cross often occur when communications staff are not in the office. As talented as the staff may be, they can use some help during their off hours. For this reason, the Red Cross has a communications on-call position.

The on-call volunteer operates as the media contact when the Red Cross provides disaster relief services after hours. Typically, on-call volunteers are assigned one week per month in which they will be contacted in the event of an emergency between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. If an emergency occurs during their assigned time period, the on-call volunteer will receive a call from the Bridge, the Red Cross' emergency call center. The volunteer is then responsible for recording the details about the emergency and the Red Cross' involvement in the relief efforts and contacting the appropriate media with that information. In some cases, the on-call volunteer will even report to the disaster scene. Of course, in the event of a major disaster occurring after hours, the communications staff will also be notified and will respond accordingly.

For an organization like the Red Cross, it is absolutely necessary for someone to be available to talk to the media at all hours. What are some other situations that you have been in or that you can think of that require PR professionals to be available beyond the traditional work day?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Domino's Turns to Buzz Marketing. Will it Work?

Domino's Pizza is turning to buzz marketing in its latest campaign. In its TV ad, the company explains that they are so confident in their product that they do not feel the need to doctor or manipulate their pizzas for commercial purposes. Instead, the company is turning to its customers and the public at large for its next advertising photos.

Customers are encouraged to take their own photos of their Domino's pizza and submit them online at showusyourpizza.com. Customers can win $500 and the chance to have their photo actually used in a Domino's Pizza ad.

The photo guidelines? According to the website, in all photos taken for commercial purposes, whether taken by a consumer-turned-photographer or the company itself, the following guidelines will be followed:
  • pictures only of "honest-to-goodness" pizzas will be taken.
  • pictures only of pizzas made by Domino's employees will be taken.
  • the pizzas in the photos cannot and will not be "artificially manipulate[d]"
To encourage people to participate in the contest (and also to boost sales), Domino's is also offering customers a special deal: two medium two topping pizzas for $5.99 (although, curiously, there is a two pizza minimum).

Do you think this campaign will succeed in generating word-of-mouth buzz about the company and its products? Do you think this campaign is a good way of connecting with customers and the public at large? It certainly caught my attention! While I don't plan on submitting my own photos, I think it is a fun and clever way to generate both business and awareness--not to mention cheap for the company (the winner is only promised $500 and the money spent on web development and TV ads is probably money that would be spent on promotion either way).

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Disaster Strikes, PR Cleans It Up

Whether it is a hurricane, flood, oil spill, or corporate mess (because we all know there are plenty of those), one of the main jobs of a PR practitioner is to use their skills to assist in managing the crisis. In a recent article in PRSA's online publication Public Relations Tactics, intern Philip Volmar describes the tactics used by three PR professionals who have had to deal with crisis management on a large scale. Volmar does this to compare the PR response of the recent BP oil spill with the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.

Volmar begins by quoting John Deveney, head of the Deveney Communications firm, who dealt with the PR aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Deveney said, “What we’ve learned from Hurricane Katrina is that we need to have a one-voice strategy." Deveney also comments on how impressed he is that media outlets, businesses and local governments have successfully proved to have one collective voice on how to handle the disaster at hand.

Volmar continues by quoting regional PR Director of MGM Mirage Mississippi Operations Mary Cracchiolo-Spain who said, "Perception becomes reality for some people. Key challenges are dispelling rumors and responding to negative media coverage.” According to James E. Lukaszewski, president of the Lukeszewski Group, “All crises follow patterns — from robberies to weather disasters — that you can use to forecast and plan for [other] crises."

So what does all this mean? What should any PR novice take away from what the professionals are saying? Volmar combined the collective experiences of Lukaszewski, Deveney, and Cracchiolo-Spain to outline the following points when managing a crisis of any size:

Communicate with core audience. During Katrina, MGM spent the first 48 hours relinking communications with the public by establishing an 800 number and creating a website dedicated to the crisis. Now for the oil spill, the company rerouted the hurricane hotline to a new oil-spill information center.

Form strategic partnerships. Deveney said that in Louisiana, coastal parishes are coming together with other stakeholder groups to conduct media monitoring and image audits.

Establish a hub for information. To reduce the amount of media volume on a crisis, develop a one-stop source for simplified facts, background information, story ideas, contacts and news releases. The Mississippi Beyond Katrina website is an award-winning example.

Be sympathetic to employee needs. Don’t forget that a crisis can impact human lives in addition to the bottom line. Communicating with employees will prevent rumors, and trust will flow to your audience.

Define roles. The leader must be empowered to make executive decisions, and the spokesperson must set the tone for the crisis.

Validate victims. One way to manage the victim relationship is simply to apologize — early and quickly. Often, a public apology is all that is needed. “Apologies are the atomic energy of empathy,” Lukaszewski said. “Apologies limit litigation and settle people down.”

To see the original article or to learn more about crisis management, click here.

This guest blog was written by staff member Michele Reilley.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cool New Tool to Better Understand Your Audience's Motivations

Knowing your audience is one of the most important aspects to a successful communications plan. You need to know who your target audience is, what they like, where they consume information, etc. in order to strategically craft your message as well as disseminate it correctly to produce a desired effect.

Although there are many sites that allow you to purchase information about different audiences, there are also a few free ones that give snapshots of an audience's demographics and pyschographics. One such tool that I discovered today is called "Global Web Index LITE."

With this three-step program, quickly get a snapshot of what motivates your audience, what they do online, and how they feel about brands in social media.

First, choose a country. Second, choose an age range. And finally, choose a category that you believe best relates to the audience you're targeting.

Here are descriptions of the categories to help you choose:

Risk taker: “I like to take risks”
Informers: “I regularly inform friends and family on new products and services”
Positives: “I feel positive about the global economy”
Strivers: “I’m always striving to achieve more in life”
Premium Lovers: “I tend to buy the premium version of the product
Internationals: “It is important to stay in touch with what is going on in the world”
Thrill Seeker: “I like to pursue a life of challenge, novelty and change”

Try it here! I chose "USA," "16-24" and "Strivers."

What are you and what did you find out about other people like you?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Client Update: Casa Papel's New Website

Casa Papel has re-launched their website: www.casapapel.com

At Casa Papel the expert staff can truly "bring your vision to paper," specializing in distinctive and high-quality paper from around the world, paper craft tools, accesssories and paper-related services. The website now features information about all of the services offered, as well as product profiles, and the decorative and specialty paper selection. Casa Papel is a design house with the ability to create exactly what you've dreamed up, creating the perfect invitations, cards, stationary and so much more. With papers from Japan, Italy, Tibet and many other places, you really will be amazed that paper could be so beautiful!

If you live in Philadelphia or in the surrounding area you must not only browse the website but really go visit the store too. Casa Papel is located at 804 North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties Philadelphia. To schedule a free consultation call 267-761-9149 or e-mail hello@casapapel.com.

Also, please sign up for their newsletter here! You don't want to miss out on special offers, events, workshops and more! Follow Casa Papel on Twitter @CasaPapel!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Arizona Tries to Put Itself Back on the Tourist Map

Arizona, most recently known for its infamous and controversial new immigration law, is now planning to spend $250,000 on a public relations campaign to counter its negative image and promote itself as a "safe and welcoming destination." According to the Associated Press, the state's hotel trade group will also contribute $30,000 to the effort.

The USA Today article goes on to state that the PR campaign was publicly presented by a tourism task force appointed by Arizona governor, Jan Brewer. With major economic fall-outs for the tourism industry due to several boycotts and travel bans from cities across the country, the AP article goes on to state that Arizona should hire a PR firm "to help manage the existing dialogue and clarify the facts" regarding the immigration law.

Brewer approved the recommendations of the task force, one of which also directs Arizona to "change the tone of the dialogue to reflect the true implications and tangible effects that boycotts have on the lives and families on the most vulnerable tourism employees," AP reports.

Will a PR campaign help improve Arizona's damaged reputation or is the damage irreversible?

Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Did You Know July is National Hot Dog Month?

I'm sure many people fired up their grills this past weekend for the Fourth of July. The celebration of our nation's independence just wouldn't be the same without hamburgers, hot dogs and fireworks. It is estimated that Americans enjoyed 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day, which is just a fraction of the 20 billion hot dogs they eat in a year! Hot dogs are among our country's most consumed foods, but did you know that July is National Hot Dog Month?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce named July National Hot Dog Month in 1957. Today, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council is encouraging Americans to join in the celebration. On their website (www.hot-dog.org) you will find statistics, facts and trivia, recipes and free downloadable hot dog place mats.

After browsing the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's website, I realized there is a lot I did not know about hot dogs. I learned that there are many different regional preferences for hot dog eating and that there are hot dog etiquette do's and don'ts.

Will you take the time to learn more about hot dogs in honor of National Hot Dog Month?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Get Glue

One of the most interesting and exciting things about social media is that it is always changing and evolving. Plus, people are always creating new ways for people to use social media to connect.

I recently found out about GetGlue. "GetGlue is a social network for entertainment," the site explains on its homepage. "Check-in and rate things to discover new favorites, see what your friends are into, get stickers and win free stuff."

The site allows you to identify things you like, like movies, authors, and performing artists, and will then recommend other things to you based on your likes and those of your friends.

It's a fascinating concept! I look forward to seeing if this site and others like it will become big in the future. Have you ever used GetGlue?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Holiday Promotions

Holidays are the perfect time to promote a business, an event or a place. On this Fourth of July, organizations around the country are celebrating our nation’s Independence Day. Promotions range from sales to local Independence Day festivities in hopes that the promotions will draw visitors to a business or city.

Wawa landed the role of sponsor for Philadelphia’s 11-day-long celebration: the Wawa Welcome America festival. The hoagie joint will sponsor every festivity ranging from the Life, Liberty & You Independence Day parade in Historic Philadelphia to the free concert, featuring the Goo Goo Dolls and The Roots, as well as fireworks at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

By associating itself with a major holiday and its festivities, the organization is really placing its name in the minds of Philadelphians. Is Wawa a good organization to sponsor the festival or would another business have made a better match? What do you think of a franchise sponsoring a city’s celebrations?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tips for Pitching to Bloggers

This spring as a staff member for Prowl, I received the assignment to pitch to several community blogs for one of Rebecca Davis Dance Company’s productions. Before I was given this task, the only pitching I had done was over the phone or to newspapers back in high school, so I was certainly not in my element. As I sat down to write the blog pitches, thinking it would only take a few to jot down an email, I realized that I was completely oblivious of proper pitching etiquette. Thankfully, we went over some pitching techniques in a PRowl workshop and I learned some pointers. We decided the e-mails for our purposes should be conversational, short, and relationship building, where other types of pitches might be more formal. I found this article on Ragan.com that gave some helpful pointers for all of you blog pitchers out there:

Do:

1. Know who to contact: This stems back to making sure that you have an updated PR list and you have done your research! Don’t embarrass yourself or whoever you are representing by contacting the wrong person.
2. Create relationships before the pitch: the blogger will be much more likely to post for you if they trust your character and think you can be of mutual use to each other.
3. Have a unique story: people are more likely to respond to a story than a sentence! Make them remember what you have to say.
4. Personalize the pitch: Be knowledgeable about the blogger and their content.
5. Lay out the benefit for the reader: Mutual friendships are useful, make relationships and don’t use people for their blogs. You can help each other!

Don’t:

1. Be insulting: Don’t act like you know what the blogger’s audience would respond to better than they do.
2. Give them your whole life story: Keep it to the point because long e-mails are less likely to be read.
3. Send 100 Bloggers the same email: Blogging is a small community: bloggers talk to each other and if they discover you don’t care about them enough to personalize a short email, it is very unlikely that they will want to work with you.
4. Ask them to review something they haven’t tried: If you are seeking a review, make sure it’s something the blogger is knowledgeable about. They can’t review a book they haven’t read or a product they haven’t tried.
5. Send the same pitch multiple times: Follow-ups are important, but sending the same pitch over again will just get you ignored.

This all boils down to the key principle that building relationships via social media and blogs will benefit you in the long run. When you pitch, think about it from the blogger’s perspective and ask yourself: is this a request that I would be willing to answer? If your answer is no, perhaps you should think before you send.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Proofreading...Backwards?

In my role as Firm Director of PRowl Public Relations, most of my work consists of editing, editing, editing. Not only do I look at strategic messaging, I also have to be aware of all things spelling and grammar. As author Mignon Fogarty of the blog "Tips and Tactics for Effective Proofreading" notes, we all make mistakes and typos slip through, but there a few ways to help diminish these writing gaffes.

Here are some proofreading tools Fogarty has found effective:
  1. Read your work backward. Start with the last word in the last sentence and work your way back to the beginning. When reading a sentence from beginning to end, your mind tends to skip over errors because you know what you "meant" to write.
  2. Read your work out loud. This tactic is especially helpful when finding comma placement errors.
  3. Always proofread a printed version of your work. The computer screen can get the best of us, so warm up the printer.
  4. Give yourself more time. Step away from the computer for an hour or so before starting to proofread; this will help clear your mind and approach the writing from a fresh perspective.

We always have recommended tip #3 to our PRowl staff. Print double-sided to help be less wasteful and get out the red pen. I always catch more when I'm free to mark up a page and make column notes. Tips #2 and #4 have also been helpful for me in the past. And if you have roommates listening, don't worry, they already know you're crazy! The best tip of all though - have someone else read your work. As good of an editor as you may be, you often need another pair of eyes to look at the text objectively.

I have never used tip #1 but figured I'd give it a try on this post. Hopefully there are no errors!

Do you have any other proofreading tips to recommend?

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

14 Days Into My First "Real" Job

Here I am almost done with my third full week of my "real" job and time is flying by. After the whirlwind of my last semester at Temple, graduation and post-graduation travel, I thought starting my full-time job would allow me to feel like my life was slowing down. Oh, I was so wrong.

My first few weeks have been busy and exciting, and here are some things I've learned so far:

1. Organization and time management is more important than ever. Sometimes I don't have a deadline for a project, but that doesn't mean that I can surf the web all day! I look at the tasks I have to do and get them done as efficiently as possible. Being given the responsibility to look at what I have to do and decide what needs to be done first is exciting.

2. When people want to help you, let them! Your first job is no time to be "too proud" to ask for help. It's great to take initiative and figure things out for yourself, but if you're confused or need information ask for it. I find that asking questions helps me to better understand the organization I'm working for (The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce) and complete projects better because I have solid background information.

3. Stay involved in things outside of your job. The first few weeks of work I was just trying to get in on time, get settled in my new environment and do the best I could at my job. Now that I'm feeling more comfortable I want to start looking for activities to get involved in. I was an active member of student organizations while I was at Temple and I miss that greatly. I suggest getting involved in a professional organization, an alumni association, a community group or a group devoted to a passion you have. Remember, your job isn't your whole life! Being well rounded is important in college and it's important post-graduation.

In a few weeks I'm sure I'll have more things to share about what I'm learning at my "real job." Until then, I'd love to hear any tips you have for being successful at a new job! Also, make sure to check back next Thursday for another PRowl Alumni Post!