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Archive for the ‘Real-World PR’ Category

Everybody, from time to time, should take a step back and watch himself go by. -Thomas Watson Senior, Founder of IBM 

I was seriously concerned about how much I would miss school once I graduated from college… I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t studying, working on homework or learning something new, and I should have known better than to have believed that any of those things would end once I entered the working world.

I’m still learning alright, but the way I’m learning has changed- for the good and the bad. The hands-on experience and chance to apply all my book-knowledge has been incredible.  I’ve gotten experience with advertising plans and submissions, direct marketing creative and printing and tradeshow preparation, and I’ve even helped research and write the occasional new business plan. But with the learning curve, not to mention all that’s gone on outside of work with family, friends and the holidays, comes a few difficulties. 

Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in doing the day-to-day survival activities that I don’t make the time to take a step back and look at the big picture for each of my clients.

One thing I love about Akhia is that making the time to step back is not only suggested, it’s required.  We have had agency meetings specifically for that purpose where everyone is asked to brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas for clients that will meet long-term or big picture goals.  I thought I would have an advantage since I’m still relatively new to some of my accounts, but it was still a hard thing to do, stepping back and taking a look. It’s something we as an agency should do more often, but it’s also something I’ve tasked myself to do more often as well.

I believe in applying what I’ve learned in the classroom to the real world, and although experience is providing it’s own lessons, I like to think that all my hard book work was also worth the effort I put forth. One client that I particularly enjoy consumed quite a bit of my past week, but the results- and some of the projects moving forward- are why I love this industry, why classroom knowledge doesn’t have to go to waste and why I really believe in the work I do. (more…)

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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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I was watching CNN this afternoon after gutting my pumpkin and toasting the seeds when I heard about FEMA’s response to the California wild fires. I was blown away by the PR nightmare that has ensued. I actually sat around until they ran the story again to make sure I heard things right and then hit the computer.

For those who missed this one, FEMA issued a press conference last Tuesday to update the media and public on its response to the California fires and how it has been handling the situation. The conference was called last minute and the media was apparently unable to attend, but the conference took place anyway with FEMA employees posing as inquisitive reporters while FEMA directors answered questions. The tape of the fake conference was then issued to the media.

Once word got out about the staged press conference, FEMA issued an apology, saying that in its attempt to disseminate a lot of information to answer previous media questions, it had made an error in judgment and that the employees who had participated would be disciplined. However, only the AP was invited to witness that statement. Talk about making a bad situation worse. For more details, read and watch the story yourself.

Here’s the situation in my eyes. I give FEMA a nod for good intent. It wanted to answer questions, wanted to get information out about the situation and didn’t want to hide. All good things, however, there were a number of ways it could have done this aside from issuing a last minute press conference. (i.e. set up an FAQ area on its Web site, etc.) From case studies I covered in class, it seems to me that a common mistake made during crises is rushing into disseminating information without considering key messages, who should act as spokesperson and what the appropriate forum for distributing the message might be.

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As I mentioned in my previous blurb, I’ve graduated and entered the real world. I took two weeks off between my graduation and the beginning of my new agency job to travel (surprise), but now everything is catching up. 

I’m still receiving e-mails from KSU listservs, which is bringing on a barrage of emotions ranging from joy to horror at having finished college, but I’m loving every minute at work and it’s really what has helped me stay stable and sane. Although my first weeks flew by, trying to get acclimated to the workplace and my clients, I’ve finally had a moment to stop and think about everything that has happened.

I was talking with a friend who is finishing her last semester at KSU in the PRKent sequence, and she was asking me quite a few in-depth questions about my time at Kent State, my internships, my job, my travels and how those things helped lead me to where I am now.

 I’m glad that I dedicated so much time and effort not only to my course work, but to the organizations I joined and positions I held. I just turned in my paperwork to join the Akron Chapter of PRSA, a move brought on by good experiences as a member of Kent State’s PRSSA. I was only a mildly active member due to declaring my major late, being out of the country and class conflicts, but the meetings I attended and my experience at the PRSSA National Convention all helped me develop professionally before I was officially a professional. Whether I was participating in a resume or cover letter critique, earning scholarship money or simply meeting other classmates, I learned more about applying what I was learning in class to the real world, and I was learning how many opportunities existed for me once I left Kent State. (more…)

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I know there are no excuses for leaving my blog go as long as I did, but I am going to list some anyway:

– Graduated from Kent State University summa cum laude in August

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– Traveled heathercolloseum.jpgaround Europe with my brother for two weeks

– Moved from Cleveland to Cuyahoga Falls and learned that I own way too much

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– Started my new job at Akhia, Public Relations & Marketing Communications

However, now I’m back, practicing public relations in full force and ready to dedicate some time and effort to Experience PR.  Sorry if you missed me, but I included a few photos so you can feel like you were along for the ride…

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crawl.gifI admit that I’m neglecting the blog this summer, but I’m going to blame this last break on my vacation sans Internet.

What I wanted to mention before I left was that I was able to take part in the first-ever Cleveland Intern Crawl on Monday, July 30 and had a blast! Despite the alcoholic connotations associated with any kind of crawl, this was a dry (only as in sober) networking and educational experience.

The interns at Liggett Stashower planned and implemented the event, which included interns from five advertising and public relations firms in downtown Cleveland. I know there were a number of other places that could easily have been added to the list, but for the sake of time this was a perfect amount of stops… especially for a hot afternoon of walking across town.

I went along as the solo representative for Landau Public Relations, but there were also students and young professionals serving as interns from Dix & Eaton, Wyse, Brokaw and Liggett Stashower.

Aside from meeting the other interns, who were from a variety of universities and backgrounds, ranging from communication to design, it was awesome to see the office layouts of the other agencies and learn about the kind of experience each intern was gaining from their respective company.

I had never heard of a couple of the agencies before the tour. I blame my ignorance on the fact that a few are advertising agencies, but I was surprised to learn that the companies have public relations professionals on staff as well.

Most of the agencies were full-service, incorporating some combination of advertising, marketing, public relations and design, and I enjoyed learning how those all work together in one building since Landau Public Relations is pure PR.

It was also extremely beneficial to me to experience the different environments, which ranged from relaxed and creative to corporate and organized. I think a major part in determining where to apply for an internship or job is deciding what kind of surroundings and people will encourage you to do your best work. I’ve had informational interviews with most of the agencies in Cleveland, and those have significantly impacted my career decisions.

I am of a firm belief that if you don’t feel comfortable or like you can be yourself during an interview, or even just sitting in a foyer waiting for the interview, that you might want to reconsider. When I am interviewing, I always ask my interviewers what they like best about their job, and if people/environment are not mentioned at least in their top three, then I know it’s not somewhere I want to be. A huge part of the learning experience is getting to know the people you work with and learning from them. If you begin with a strain on that relationship then I think it’s often downhill from there.

The interns are leaving comments for the next group filling their spots so the crawl can continue, if not next semester then at least next summer. If you’re in the area, working or interning, I recommend contacting them and signing up! You can also check out the Liggett Stashower intern blog.

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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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