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Getting Creative

Just_My_Imagination_3D_III_by_cerenimoAs a kid I was always making up stories, songs and games. My teachers were constantly telling my parents about how creative they thought I was. Sadly I feel as if I have not had the time to be creative in years, unless it is with purpose. Majoring in public relations has taught me to keep everything short and to the point. There is no room for extraneous sentences and “fluffy” writing in this industry. That’s why I was so excited to learn that for a little extra credit, I once again have the opportunity to write something that’s a little silly and a little creative. Although I’ll be honest I a little worried I’ve forgotten how to do that… I’ve decided to go ahead and write from the point of view of an inanimate object. If I do this correctly it should be clear what I am writing about quite soon, not to mention my previous post is a bit of a giveaway.

Here we go:

People begin to trickle into the room. I hear their chatter, their whispers and greetings.

“Hi! How are you?”

“I’m good! I feel like it’s been months since I’ve seen you come sit next to me and we can catch up while we wait.”

The room is soon a soft roar of laughter and pleasantries, seats being shifted on a wood floor and heels softly clicking. A hand soon grips me and the room goes quiet. I can feel the blood beating rapidly in his veins as his breathing goes shallow. He a takes a deep breath holds me up to his lips and begins talking. He holds to tightly and close at first and a mist of spittle is flicked onto. Ick this guy needs to get it together.

But then a question is asked and then another, and he begins to gather momentum. Bolstered by their interest words begin to trip from his mouth in excited succession. I can feel the energy of the room hum with a low whir of interest. He relaxes his grip on me, lets me drop to six inches from his mouth and continues speaking. His heart slows and breath deepens. I can hear the soft inhales lengthen and feel him begin to hold me with command and not fear. I am now a golden scepter in his hand. And he is king of the stage.

How to not botch your presentation

6262298600_768fee8174_oSo I have a big presentation coming up. It will be just me and a power point discussing the local food movement in Oregon. My topic is huge and there are so many different ways to tackle it that I have mostly been focusing on what my timeline will be and what aspects of the local food I want to discuss. Until I started thinking, what about when I am actually standing up in front of my audience? I’ve gotten over most of my stage fright and fear of presenting in high school, but by no means am I a presentation expert.

Lucky for me my instructor and writer of PR Landscape gave a great presentation on presenting and I found this useful article on PR Daily, 5 Ways to Avoid a Presentation Disaster which offered some great tips.  From these two sources and what I have noticed through having to sit through many a bad presentation I have gone ahead and compiled my own list of do’s and don’ts that will hopefully help with my own presentation, and any presentations you might have as well.

Don’t:

1. Don’t linger too long on one slide. A presentation should always be supplemented with interesting visuals and if you leave your audience to stare at one slide for too long, you may notice your audience growing restless for something new.

2. Don’t make the presentation all about you. Yes, you have a captive audience, and no, they don’t want  to hear all about you while getting nothing in return. Thank them for taking time out of their day to listen, and be open to questions, After all questions means that your audience actually cared enough  to ask.

3. Don’t forget to make your presentation a story. We all love a good story. If your content is heavy on the facts and figures or seems dry, give it context and a storyline to drive your point home.

Do:

1. Do take the time to design. Even if you aren’t the most dynamic public speaker and you wouldn’t describe yourself as gregarious you can still offer your audience something beautiful to look at. Create clean colorful visuals that support your topic. Make an infographic if appropriate, and avoid having slides overloaded with text.

2. Do command your space and project your voice. Who cares what you are talking about if no one can hear you? Make an effort to speak to the back row of the audience and maybe even ask if everyone can hear you before you begin.

Along with that, how do you expect your audience to pay attention to your content if you’re constantly fidgeting and clearly not comfortable in the room? Command your space, stand still and stand tall. Personally this is my biggest problem. I am a squirmy person by nature and I have a bad habit of playing with my hair and jewelry while speaking, but I’m working on it.

3. Do practice! Even the best presentations can fall flat if unrehearsed. Practice to make sure you within your time limit, comfortable with your topic, and aware of how quickly and when to switch you slides. Also while you practice try and anticipate what questions your audience might have and think of answers that will tie into your key messages.

I know I will be using these tips for my upcoming presentation and I hope this helps you as well!

Social Media and the Oscars

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 5.23.33 PMIt’s finally Sunday night and that means the Oscars. For starters I was excited to watch, and second #Oscars has been trending on Twitter for three days now. After scrolling through the feed I noticed that most of the posts were predictions for who would win, and PR Daily noticed as well. Their article, Social media predicts ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ will nab Best Picture Oscar compiled the most popular Oscar predictions trending on social media.

While the analytics at general sentiment weren’t terribly accurate, Farsite Forecast generated some good predictions accurately predicting “12 Years a Slave” for best picture and Matthew McConaughey for best actor and Lupita Nyong’o for best supporting actress in “12 Years a Slave.”

In fact, aside from being filled with Oscar predictions, Twitter was shut down by the buzz of a now familiar selfie. Ellen DeGeneres’ star studded TwitPic was retweeted so many times it not only beat out Obama’s Tweet from 2012, but briefly stalled Twitter from all the traffic. It appears Ellen DeGeneres really knows how to work social media and has ensured that the Oscars hashtag will be popular for quite some time.

I made an Infographic and you can too

Finished pictochartSo my latest assignment for my J452 PR class was to create an infographic. At first my heart sank thinking of all of the hours I was about to spend on InDesign, (I love InDesign but anyone who uses it knows how time consuming it can be), until my instructor showed us pictochart.com. Oddly enough before this class I had never heard of Pictochart and had no idea that it was one long infographic cheat sheet. The site does have its limitations though. You don’t have nearly the amount of creative freedom as InDesign, or nearly enough functions in my opinion. However I liked one of the site’s templates and wanted to try my hand at creating a professional looking infographic with a website that is dedicated to helping create them.

Along with posting my first attempt at creating my own inforgraphic, here are some tips for what to include in an infographic if you are ever in a position to make one.

1. Decide what your infographic’s purpose will be. What do you want to say? What do you want people to do after looking at your infographic?

2. Only use the most important facts in your infographic. Too much text takes away from the visual aspect of your infographic. Clog it with text and no one will see the overall picture.

3. Use recognizable images in an interesting visual context to give your infographic dimension. Explaining complex information with well known images will simplify your point and make your statistics far more memorable.

While I don’t consider myself a designer I do understand the concept of making complex ideas simple and memorable through images. That is the beauty of the infographic, and when done right it will make your point that much more impactful. To get more infographic tips, check out Yeomans, how to create effective infographic. I hope this helped get some creative juices flowing!

The Stigma Around Public Relations

640px-Social-media-for-public-relations1Recently an article in PRWeek asked, Is it time to retire the term ‘public relations?’. In my opinion I couldn’t agree more with author Jeffrey Sharlatch’s take that yes, it might be time for public relations to undergo some new branding.

As a current PR major I have heard every stigma that comes with the term. “Oh you’re studying to be a spin doctor?” Or “that seems pretty easy, do you really need a four year degree for that?” Most people are completely unaware of the true breadth of our field, or that PR is anything more than what Aaron Eckhart’s character does in Thank You for Smoking. My own father has asked me multiple times to definite my major, and often by the end of my long winded description always concludes, “so it’s something like advertising then?”

All these stereotypes are probably why most of large PR firms do not even have the words public relations in their name. Weber Shandwick, Edleman, and JeffreyGroup are just some of the many PR firms that use phrases like “communication strategy,” “public engagement,” and “dialogue” to describe the role of a PR firm.

Public relations as a field is undergoing a metamorphosis, and I would not be surprised if the term PR did as well. As firms incorporate more digital work and advertising, engage the public in a two-way conversation and use alternative media outlets it would not be surprising to see a re-branding of the field. Although unfortunately I do not see it ever becoming easier to define and explain for curious relatives.

Quora, for all of Your Burning Questions

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.18.03 PMIf you’re sick of turning to Wikipiedia and Yahoo Answers for your questions and curiosities, Quora is an interesting social media alternative. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Quora and the Search for Truth, the site had 1.15 million visitors in the month of December and is the 441st most visited site on the Internet. More than that, I’ve found the site has serious potential to further your professional online presence and it’s easier than creating a Facebook profile. Below I have listed the simple ways you can use Quora to your advantage and continue to establish a professional social media presence.

Step 1: Create a free Quora profile and select the topics you find interesting. Some of my 49 topics include writing, search engine marketing, journalism, breaking news and social media.

Step 2: Begin reading and upvoting interesting news stories and question threads in the topics of your choice. I’m relatively new to Quora but the more question threads I have begun to read and comment on the more I am learning. There are several public relations professionals that are active on Quora and who I believe have offered some insightful answers to questions I’ve read.

Step 3: Participate. If you see a question about a professional field of interest, do not hesitate to participate and add your commentary. Quora users who often post interesting questions and offer thoughful answers get the most followers. The more you participate and show a curiosity about your field and offer useful information when can, the more you will be noticed. It’s that easy.

Quora is an excellent way to showcase the knowledge you have, while learning from others along the way. And if you avoid asking questions like, “how can I get my hair to grow faster,” or “why is my dog constipated” you add yet another professional social media outlet to your online presence.

Will the TV Shopping Experience Catch on?

Everyone has probably found themselves watching the Home Shopping Network at least once. You’re sitting there in a sickly stupor while your body works to fight off the flu and you can’t sleep. It’s 1 a.m. on a Monday. You’re not so awake that you can follow a story line, and all you can manage to watch is the ladies of HSN telling you all about the phenomenal attributes of some new cubic zirconia stud earrings. For many, that’s as far as TV shopping will go, but a company called Delivery Agent is hoping to change that and their most recent push was unveiled at this years Super Bowl.

H&M recently partnered with Delivery Agent to air a commercial during the Super Bowl where you could not only see their new David Beckham Bodywear Collection, but you could actually buy it using your remote. But as a recent Fast Company article explains, only viewers with Samsung Smart TV’s that were connected to the internet would be able to take advantage of this new television shopping, or t-commerce technology. Obviously this limits the group of people who might want to buy underwear off their TV while watching the Super Bowl to a much smaller number. And while the t-commerce technology is out there and ready, sweeping changes will need to be made in order for it to be adopted on a grand scale.

For starters, consumers would need to ditch their traditional TV in favor of a smart TV that is connected to the internet. And according to a report by TV Systems Intelligence Service published in 2013, 73 percent of consumers are not interested in switching to a smart TV.

Secondly, consumers would need to be motivated to make purchases in between episodes of their favorite shows. Motivation isn’t exactly easy to track and it might take some time for Delivery Agent to connect with consumers in that way.

I know that for me personally, I would not want to buy clothing off my television. For me half the fun of shopping is actually going shopping. I like to explore and peruse and try things on with friends. I have never liked buying clothing online because it’s tough to know how it will fit, or how much the color has been changed by a screen. Then again I am one of those people who has only found themselves on HSN when there is noting else on and my cough won’t let me sleep. Considering the fact that HSN and its sister network QVC earned 3 billion and 8.5 billion in revenue in 2012, I might be in the minority. Delivery Agent and H&M have the potential to make lucrative profits off David Beckham and his underwear if they expand beyond just the Samsung Smart TV.

But enough about me, what do you think of the Super Bowl ad? Would you be interested in purchasing clothing with the click of a remote?

A Look Into my Future, or so I Hope

Photo courtesy of Mandy Shold

Photo courtesy of Mandy Shold

This past weekend was enlightening, intimidating, and exciting. I was lucky enough to join 15 other members of the University of Oregon’s Public Relations Student Society of America, (PRSSA), to tour three Seattle public relations agencies.

We spent Friday morning at Weber Shandwick, where we explored the office and learned about how the agency is tackling the changing PR landscape. I really appreciated how Weber works to be a one-stop-shop for clients, dabbling in video and advertising along with the usual planning and strategizing expected in PR. They are actively becoming a more integrated agency which gave me hope that two years of learning how to film and edit for Duck TV News wasn’t entirely useless. We then left Weber to tour Edelman.

Edelman is the best at what they do. Walking into the office and seeing awards proudly displayed next to the Edelman logo was certainly impressive. The presentation was informative and I got goosebumps hearing about all the different office locations and opportunities to travel and work abroad. At the same time their internship program is risky. I don’t know if I’m ready to pick up and move to a new city to work for a company that accepts interns solely on a rolling basis based on client need. If the Starbucks account no longer needs an army of 20, then the lowest on the totem pole is the first to go. Unless another intern spot are the office opened up. That’s not to say I won’t pursue an opportunity if I think it could be a good fit for me.

Our last agency of the day was Porter Novelli. Their office is located in the oldest building in Seattle, which may not be so neat for some people, but as someone who took a lot of AP History courses and loves architecture, that’s definitely interesting. Immediately upon entering the office I was struc by the camaraderie of the people and the cohesion. Everyone seemed so supportive of one another and passionate about they do. Not to mention I liked how the cubicles were lower than the ones at Edelman and Weber Shandwick to encourage communication between employees. On the downside, while I loved the passion I saw exuded at Porter Novelli, I don’t know if I could see myself being as passionate as they were about their largest client, HP. Printer ink doesn’t exactly make my heart flutter. Then again who knows, I’m not even positive about what avenue of PR I will be most passionate about.

Overall, It was really interesting to explore the different dynamics of each agency and learn about their most recent client work. It certainly made me think hard about my future and solidified my goal to work at an agency. Hopefully I will be there soon.

Who Wants to be on Justin Bieber’s PR Team?

Even the most staunch Bieber fans seem to be getting exasperated with Bieber’s latest arrest. Drag racing a rented yellow Lamborghini while under the influence of drugs and alcohol would be bad for anyone’s reputation, but add the fact that Bieber is 19 with an even younger fan base and you have a crisis communications nightmare. I certainly do not envy his PR team, nor the PR team of any young star with a slew of offenses like this. Lindsey Lohan anyone?

A recent article posted by the NY Daily News interviews crisis communications expert Hunter Fredrick who offers some solid advice on what he would do in a situation like this. The tips are what you’d expect. Have a heart-to-heart with the partying star, get him settled into rehab, and have him show some serious humility once out of rehab.  It seems like every stars go-to-move is rehab when things start to involve repeated mugshots. It made me wonder, what else should high profile celebrities and their PR teams do in the event of a crisis? Paula Deen took to YouTube with a heartfelt apology after accusations of racism, should Beiber issue a similar apology? Who knows. Judging by his recent antics I have a feeling Beiber is confident enough in his fan base to skip the apology and maybe just do a quick rehab stint and call it a day.

All I know is that if I were his publicist I would sit him down and talk about just how much his career could be affected by these antics, and remind him of the pop stars of the past who never managed to rise above their scandals.

Walmart, One of the Good Guys

A few months ago Walmart landed itself in PRNewser for their corporate social responsibility efforts. Even Walmart, a store not often associated with charity, can do some good. The article talks about how Walmart is boosting their CSR and reputation with this crazy new strategy of actually helping people. Specifically using their size and rescources to provide aid for Hurricane Katrina victims.  As the Harvard Business Review explains it, “Don’t Spin a Better Story. Be a Better Company.”

Walmart and other massive conglomerates seem to have noticed that instead of relying on crisis communication to bail them out of sticky situations, maybe a proactive approach would be best. Why wait until one of your garnet factories in Myanmar goes up in flames before you make a desperate call to your PR department? Why not just be proactive and create a strong CSR mission for your company that your employees and shareholders can feel excited about? I gotta hand to the big boys some of the recent CSR initiatives have been pretty impressive. Forbes has compiled a pretty good list here.

Call me idealistic, call me silly, but my favorite companies are the ones that put CSR at the forefront of their business plan. Whether it’s Starbucks with their green coffee initiative, or Ben and Jerry’s helping the honey bees, I always like a company that makes a point to practice what they preach. To check out some companies that really put CSR first, check out this AdAge link here.