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Archive for the ‘Classroom Projects’ Category

This post is dedicated to the students about to present their campaigns (tomorrow) at Kent State… 

 All PRKenters (a.k.a. students in Kent State’s public relations sequence) heard horror stories about senior seminar/campaigns, which I wrote about here, from the time we entered the major.  All of those who had gone before us had the same words of warning.  It is the hardest class you will ever take.  You will either learn to love or hate the classmates in your group by the time it is all over.  You will stop sleeping, eating and having fun during that semester.  All of your life will be sucked away until the moment after your group presents to the client and it is all over.

I’ll admit under no uncertain terms that it was by far the most time-consuming and intense class I ever took.  I was completely immersed in my client, and my social life did disintegrate in front of my eyes.  It seemed that a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders when I was finally done and able to glimpse my ‘A’ through a film of happy tears.

 Obviously I’m not quite over it, and based on recent events, I’m glad for that.  Although I heard a number of students complain that it wasn’t really a necessary or real world experience for them because they didn’t plan to go into agency work where they would ever have to campaign for a client, I always disagreed on the premise that it was still a class that forced you to use what you had (hopefully) learned throughout the course of your major.  At the very least you had to work through each step of the RACE formula and appreciate in some small way its importance and significance.

The only problem with campaigns is really beyond the control of the classroom exercise, and that is that most people don’t get to go through another experience like that for some time.  Even if you enter an agency, you begin as an assistant account executive or maybe account executive, and while you might have some input or hand in helping with upcoming proposals for new business, you don’t have the bulk of the research, strategizing, writing and presenting trusted to you.  That is usually the task of a senior executive or account planner with years of experience.

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social-media.jpgIt’s amazing to me how many majors don’t require internships or any out-of-class experiences in order for students to graduate. My roommate is a biology/pre-med major graduating in December, and she was mentioning to me that she wishes she’d been forced to gain some experience during college, either in a healthcare setting or a research lab, so she would feel better prepared for her upcoming grad school applications and interviews. She readily admits that she didn’t try all that hard to gain experience, but argues that she didn’t really understand its value until it was too late.

While good grades and studious habits will earn you recognition and scholarships, the extracurricular activities and internships are what set you apart from the other superior students. In the end, there’s really no better way of learning than doing.

I really think PRKent takes that ideal to heart. Our professors are always touting the benefits of hands-on experience through classroom projects and paid and unpaid internships, and I guess they should know since they all came back to teach after spending some time working in the real world.  

This blog is one of the many projects to not only make students learn why, but how. Our PR Online Tactics class was faced with a blogging project this semester where we were required to monitor other blogs, develop a theme for our own PR-related blog and then post at least once a week throughout the semester. This part of the class was led by Professor Sledzik, author of the Toughsledding blog, and he recently posted about our class and provided links to everyone’s blogs. I made sure to monitor everyone else’s work throughout the class, and I was impressed. I don’t believe blogging is for everyone, but I thought the variety of themes and opinions really demonstrated what blogging is all about… sharing ideas and creating a conversation.

Unfortunately this was only a classroom project for a number of students so they are not going to be continuing their blogs, but I still think the project was incredibly beneficial. PR majors take classes like Print Beat Reporting that require students to write for our college newspaper for a semester to learn about news value, deadlines and how reporters think, and I’m excited that they’re transfering that ‘learning by doing’ mentality to social media as well.

This is finals week so I’m going to be putting to practice all of my hard-earned knowledge. Then I have a few trips, and I’m off to the real world!

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Each semester in our PR Campaigns class here at Kent State a client is selected and the keyred.gifclass is divided into groups who form agencies and compete for the client by developing a plan during the semester. I have been working with my group, AntHill Communications, to create a public relations campaign for KeyBank. This Friday we have 20 minutes to present weeks and months worth of research, planning, developing and design to our client, who will then choose a winner.

To be honest, at this point I don’t care whether or not that’s me. This class has been such an eye-opener to me about what goes on in the real world, and at a probably much more intense and strict pace than what I’ve been working at. It’s also been a fantastic opportunity to culminate all of my classroom and internship experiences into a final product that I will have with me the rest of my life. I’ve heard wonderful success stories of students taking their final casebooks to interviews and really having an upper-hand with the experience of creating and presenting an original campaign to a client already under their belt.

This has also been a stressful semester for me, having to work so closely with a group of people for so long. I only remember enjoying a few group projects during elementary, middle and high school, and that was when I was able to choose a team of like-minded individuals who I knew would complete their portion of the work, assuring me that I would get my A.

This semester has really changed by perception of group work in a number of ways, and since I’m about to enter an agency experience this summer, this realization couldn’t have occurred at a more appropriate time.

  • Delegation=Trust
    As product manager of my group, learning to delegate tasks, and trust that they would be completed and done well, has been a huge challenge. I am the boss that would just rather do it myself so that I know the final product meets my rigid standards of perfection, but I’ve learned the hard way that not only is this impractical but impossible. There is just too much work to do, and perfection is not always possible when a last minute project occurs and you only have an hour to complete it. It’s not that I’ve lowered my standards, I just think I’m a little more realistic. (more…)

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gavel.jpgAs part of one of my courses, Law of Advertising and PR, I was invited to attend a conference on ‘The Changing Face of Media Law’ at Kent State’s Stark Campus yesterday morning. While this counted as CLEs for practicing lawyers and provided great insight to the attendees in various news media fields, I learned a few things as well.

We just covered copyright issues in class and are now moving into corporate speech, so the first panel discussion I sat through, ‘Copyright, Trademark and the Internet,’ was a nice review and also brought up some public relations challenges I haven’t had to face just yet.

  • Copyright: Rights and Exemptions- Although the copyright owner has the right to distribute, perform publicly and create derivative works from the copyrighted material, other parties are only allowed limited access as an exemption under the Fair Use policy. This allows for the reproduction of copyright materials for the purpose of comment, criticism or parody. Our presenter, Jeffrey Samuels, a professor at the University of Akron School of Law, also mentioned that factual work receives less protection under Fair Use than fiction, and that the reason behind the use is also a factor. (i.e. Using that copyright for commercial purposes receives little protection under Fair Use.)

Why does this matter? Well, I found out that blogging is actually a perfect example of a public relations forum specifically asking for trouble with copyright issues. Using large amounts of copyright material, or even small thumbnail images that are not yours can be a copyright infringement, and I didn’t realize that attribution is only a defense to plagiarism, not copyright.

Blogging follows the guidelines of transparent information flow with linking and attributing at the heart of it all, but service providers like WordPress have to address copyright issues all the time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act limits service providers from some copyright infringement suits because they are simply providing a forum, not the actual infringing activity, but it is still their responsibility to remove said content if asked or they could face real trouble.

With the move to open, two-way communication methods being employed by corporations everywhere, I see public relations professionals getting the job of monitoring those discussions. I don’t pretend to know all the details, and if I were put in that position I would definitely be visiting my corporation’s legal department to learn more about what kind of potential troubles could ensue.

I’m all about blogging for business as long as I know all the legal repercussions of that tactic. It would be a bad PR strategy to just play it safe and not allow for any discussion, but I wouldn’t suggest inviting a crisis either.

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green-plant.jpgSocial media lesson for the week: Don’t knock it till you try it. That’s what our PR Online Tactics class has learned this semester as we’ve delved into all kinds of new experiences— creating Web content, building Web sites, designing e-newsletters, blogging and now an upcoming project on podcasting. I know we’re going to graduate with tools under our belts that current professionals are trying to learn in seminars and continued education sessions, and that makes me feel a little better about being young and green.

This class has required a lot more time and effort than I anticipated, but I never could have gained this knowledge just from reading our book. That’s the beauty of social media as I see it. You just have to try it to know how it works and whether or not using it will benefit your company or client. (I know some people will argue that there’s no question as to whether it will benefit the client, but I still have some hesitations. Drop me a note about your thoughts…)

This blog, which originally began as a short-term classroom project, has grown in leaps and bounds and is getting more attention than I ever dreamed possible. Not that I mind… it’s the best lesson I’ve ever had in experiencing the instantaneous access the Internet provides for information sharing and networking. If it can do that for me, think of what it could do for my client. (more…)

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frustrated-girl.jpgThis was a stressful week at Kent State with what seemed like midterms underway, but the underlying complaint I heard from PR friends— that all the intense projects, hard work and sleepless nights will never prove directly useful in our careers— got me thinking.

I know it’s not that anyone thinks that what they’re learning will never come in handy… we wouldn’t be paying for four+ years of college if that were true. However, I think the cynicism comes into play when the only reason behind completing four major projects in one week appears to be a good grade. As I’ve had to tell myself before, the stress and hard work will pay off in the long run, but it’s nice to sometimes see immediate results.

I have had recent success in this area, and I think (hope) that this personal experience is worth sharing with other students fighting the desire to just call it and start the weekend early.

During my media relations class with Dr. Jeanette Drake last semester, our final project was a media kit equipped with news releases, fact sheets, feature stories, personality profiles and pictures. We were told to choose a client that could actually use the project. Many students dismissed this suggestion, a decision I believe resulted from a complete doubt that a client would actually use their work. It’s a classroom project. It’s just for a grade. It’s not real.

Not so!

I chose the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Kent State University as my client, killing two birds with one stone since I had volunteered to be the PR chair for the event this year anyway. I spend a gigantic portion of my life researching and interviewing the client and writing the materials, and to be honest, I avoided the dreaded ‘just let me turn this in and be done with it’ mindset because this wasn’t just a grade, this was going to be an experience.

dks-shirt-article.jpgI got up the guts to send one press release out, which resulted in front page coverage in the Akron Beacon Journal and a television spot on 19 Action News, and I just pitched another idea to The Daily Kent Stater, which got coverage, and the reporter even used information from my fact sheet. Score!

Hopefully this doesn’t come off as bragging, but as an example of how classroom projects can actually be useful in creating portfolio materials and gaining experience. Too many students make the mistake of thinking an internship is the only way to apply the classroom to the real world. That’s not the kind of thinking that makes PR such a fast-growing field.

In any case, the weekend is almost here. I’m planning on celebrating.

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britney-spears-bald.jpgJust as I was getting used to my class schedule, workload and Britney Spears’ new hairdo, I realized there were a few items on the back-burner that had been simmering a little too long. Internship applications!

 

I have a few rules of thumb when it comes to applying for internships. (Interesting that this looks a little like the RACE process…)

 

  • Research: You have to know something about the company before you can begin convincing anyone that you are a perfect fit. Although you want experience, you want to make sure that the company can offer you the chance to learn new skills, enhance areas you already feel confident in, and take on responsibilities of your own so you can find out your real abilities. Just because the name of the agency or corporation may look good on your resume in the future doesn’t mean it’s going to offer you the best possible experience you can get.

  • Plan ahead: Due dates are usually set in stone, and it’s important to plan ahead for each application you are considering. Do the applications require writing samples, essays or recommendation letters? These elements all take time, and if you want to differentiate yourself from other applicants, take you submission seriously and choose samples of your work that represent your strengths. Leaving time to get your work together will also make a world of difference if you realize you are missing an extra copy of an article or your transcript when you’re ready to apply.

Allowing extra time will also endear you to those writing letters of recommendation for you. According to Kent State PR sequence coordinator Bill Sledzik, writing a great letter of recommendation for a student can take up to an hour. Your professors and former employers might be willing to help you out, but try to give them notice. Making sure you have an updated resume to send them for reference will also make their job easier.

 

  • Write, and write well: Most applications require more than just a cover letter and resume, which should both be flawless and specific to the company. It should come as no surprise that in public relations most of those extra materials will be writing-intensive. Ask your professors, friends and career service centers to critique your work for GSP mistakes and clarity.

  • Follow up: Once all of your applications are turned in, don’t just head off for spring break. Follow up with the contact for the internship to make sure they received your materials and let them know you are serious about the offer. Make sure you provide several contact methods so your potential employer can reach you with questions.

InternshipsMost importantly, don’t be afraid to apply. Although many internships note that previous experience is a plus, most companies realize that you have to start somewhere. Find ways to show how your classroom experiences, think print beat, principles of PR and news writing, and participation in extra-curricular activities and leadership roles have helped you understand the PR process and effective ways to communicate.

 

Showing that you understand the concepts and are ready and willing to apply them to the real world will give you a distinct advantage over someone who just needs to get an internship to graduate.

 

Be excited, be honest, and be yourself. The next challenge is when that phone rings…

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