12 Tips for PR Graduates

  1. Develop a humble  attitude. You are not entitled to a job; you must earn it.
  2. Be a continuous learner. Graduation doesn’t signal the end of learning to communicate. Practice your writing skills and learn to use new tools.
  3. Choose face-to-face communication. Eye contact is important! See this recent WSJ article.
  4. Volunteer. Help a colleague on a project or be on a committee. You will win friends and influence people.
  5. Read, Read, Read. The best way to stay on top of current events, trends, popular culture, politics, art, international affairs, the environment–and improve your writing–is is to develop a love of reading. Note: Now that you’ve graduated, you’re not stuck reading textbooks so it’s time to branch out.
  6. Write everyday. Whether it is to your boss, your mother, your best friend or your own journal. Develop the habit of writing every day. At least 500 words. Start a blog and give your opinion. No, I don’t mean Facebook posts.
  7. Make time to meditate. Take a break from technology each day. No cell phone, tablet, PC, TV, Internet, radio. Ponder your family, career, life goals and what you can do for others.
  8. Get a hobby. It’s best if it’s physical and you interact with people.
  9. Develop a solid work ethic. Be early to work. On occasion, stay late until the project is finished.
  10. Travel. This is a lifelong education.
  11. Be curious. Learn from people from other cultures. Develop an interest in new subjects.
  12. Be a good listener. Effective listening means asking good questions.

In the spirit of graduation, I offer up these tips to PR graduates. Congratulations on making it to this point and I wish you all the best.

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Google Glass for a Tweet

Product promotions have risen to a new level with the pending launch of the new video streaming and Internet enabled glasses from Google. According to the company, a limited number of customers will be selected to later purchase the $2500 glasses (for a discounted price of $1,500) when they Tweet about how they would use them or make a post to their Google+ account. A NY Times blog piece describes it here.

Google Glasses

Google Glasses

The “select” few who are chosen to receive glasses before the public launch will certainly have bragging rights. I suppose if you’re one of those people who constantly shares every aspect of your life on Facebook, you can do it now with video and stay connected with a pair of glasses that documents what you see! Hurry, the deadline is February 27th and in your Tweet you should use the hashtag: #ifihadglass

More ideas are found on the Google video here: http://www.google.com/glass/start/how-it-feels/

PR people are party planners

Ahh, these misconceptions about what PR people do persist! A recent article in PR Daily gave me pause and caused some chuckling. What really struck me is the thought that we often have ourselves to blame if we can’t articulate how PR involves research, action planning, communication and evaluation–the oft-used R.A.C.E. acronym by PR people to define the strategy involved in the PR process. And it was only this year that the professional association PRSA finally adopted an approved description of the profession. Here it is in all its glory: ”

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Above all, a PR person must be a good writer, an effective advocate and counselor with the wit and wisdom to express ideas and adapt to challenges. Now that you know more about what is expected of PR people, does that influence your opinion?

Charlie Sheen: The Ultimate PR Crisis

In more than 20 years of professional PR counseling, I’ve yet to tell a client to utter the words, “No Comment” to the press. It’s akin to saying, “I’m guilty” or “I have something to hide” in the world of public perception. However, today, I am coining a new term, “Pulling a Charlie Sheen,” which leads me to my inevitable conclusion.  If I were Charlie Sheen’s publicist–oh, that’s right, he just quit–I would tell him to simply keep his mouth shut. Whenever he does open it, he inserts his foot. Many American’s enjoy watching celebrity meltdowns on television or listening to their rants on talk radio – heck, even media sites like TMZ.com make a business out of provoking celebrities to anger in ambush interviews and paparazzi style photo opportunities. As a public relations teacher, we’ve enjoyed discussing the escapades of Charlie Sheen for the purpose of examining what not to do in a crisis PR scenario. It was actually a midterm assignment for my students. His story has all the earmarks of a disaster in the making. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is a disaster every day. What more do the students say? I will give every student in class 50 extra credit points if any of their blog comments to this post gets picked up by a national news outlet before our final exam on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Sorry Charlie! Coincidentally, a USA Today article here http://content.usatoday.com/communities/entertainment/post/2011/03/charlie-sheen-this-could-be-my-final-interview-/1 quotes him as saying that yesterday’s radio call-in rant could be his last. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing in disbelief. If you believe that, I’ve got a great at-home drug rehab program for you.

Offensive Super Bowl Ads

Another year and another round of Super Bowl advertising. Some people actually watch it for the football game, but you wouldn’t know it if you read anything in the blogosphere about the (failed) half-time show or the consumer backlash over some commercials. Take Groupon for instance. Their ad touted human rights issues in Tibet, but for the purpose of advertising fish curry. The challenge, it seems, is to succeed at championing social issues, while not appearing insensitive or demeaning. Here’s a link to the advertisement:

What’s really interesting from a PR perspective is how the company is handling the situation. Here’s a link to a recent news article about the company’s efforts to apologize–sort of.

http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2011/02/07/groupon-ceos-non-apology-apology-letter-for-super-bowl-ad/

What is your opinion?

Publicity, P.T. Barnum and KFC

In P.R., the father of publicity stunts, P.T. Barnum made a name for himself while promoting the circus. Whenever the American Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Baily circus came to town, it was usually preceded or accompanied by a publicity stunt. These stunts included parading an elephant through the town square, acrobats or trapeze artists performing feats of strength or skill to encourage public attention and get the media to promote the event. It’s no different from the stunts created by companies today to promote new products. Some of these stunts are intentional, others are not. For example CEO Steve Jobs of Apple periodically responds with rather blunt, condescending e-mails to customers who complain or question him. (see here: http://gawker.com/5641211/steve-jobs-in-email-pissing-match-with-college-journalism-student?skyline=true&s=i

Enter Kentucky Fried Chicken. More recently known as KFC, home of Colonel Sanders if you remember the iconic founder, the company has embarked on a new strategy to attract customers using the behinds of college co-eds. It’s crass and irrelevant. See the story here: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2010-09-22-kfc22_ST_N.htm

College students market KFC product on their rears

The bottom line (pun intended) is exactly what one brand expert suggested: Clean up the stores and make a better product. Bunless chicken sandwiches?

Smear Campaign By Toyota PR or By Victims’ Lawyers?

According to an article from the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/14/AR2010051405390.html?hpid=topnews, Toyota recently conducted opinion polls designed to test messages that would discredit researchers who criticized the company’s actions following the sticky accelerator problems of recent months. At the heart of the story, are the actions of a polling firm (and its associated PR agency) that were designed to debunk the credibility of experts who testified before Congress about Toyota’s failure to respond adequately to this safety issue. And there you have what seems to be a straightforward story: influencing public opinion using research practices designed to directly attack “unfair or false assertions.” However, the story seems even more misleading, or confusing the more you read: the individuals involved appear to already be biased against the automaker! One is an auto industry safety consultant who authors a blog critical of Toyota. The other man is an auto technology professor in Illinois who conducted a study that supposedly revealed Toyota engine design flaws. (Toyota officials claim the same test would generate the same results for all automobiles.)  Oh, and by the way, the safety consultant works with victims’ attorneys. Is the headline of this story misleading? The idea of intimidating witnesses is wrong and likely illegal, but what of the credibility of the witnesses themselves? If your business was threatened by nasty bloggers (allied with lawyers intent on destroying your company or suing you for millions) or a “test” conducted by a vocal critic, wouldn’t you deem it fair to present the facts and tell your side of the story? It goes on every single day in American politics with candidates and elected officials fighting each other through research, opinion polls, pseudo-science, etc. Case in point: When was the last time you had a rational conversation with someone about the Theory of Global Warming (now called “Climate Change” by proponents) without getting into a heated discussion–pun intended–with someone who has plenty of evidence and science that appears to be politically motivated? Ugh.

Apparently more details of this particular Toyota poll will be made public next week. Then we’ll likely hear more about how egregious the actions were by Toyota…but perhaps what will be lost in the message is whether or not the critics themselves are legitimate. Ask yourself this, do they have a personal investment or professional credibility at stake? What is their motivation? What do they have to lose or gain? Of course Al Gore will promote his environmental world view. He stands to make a lot of money by promoting hysteria. Perhaps this post didn’t go where you thought it would, but let me leave you with one more thought: follow the money trail and it will always reveal much more. Your thoughts?