Positive Spin

One thing you hear a lot about in the PR industry is the work-life balance. Translation: most PR professionals have demanding jobs, meaning they do not have much time for social events, hobbies or family.

Having recently visited New York City for the Newhouse Benchmark trip (read more about it on the “Newhouse Insider!”), my classmates and I were told many times by professionals that our industry is demanding. (One agency in particular said that their employees sometimes have 90-hour work weeks.)

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While I cannot claim to know what this is like, never having had an all-consuming job, I am getting a taste of this lifestyle this semester. Currently, I am a full time grad student. However, to be a full time grad student I commute between two to four hours every day.

On top of class, homework, and commuting, I also have two jobs. One as an instructional associate and another as Sherburne Public Library’s digital director. If that was not enough, I am also interning at Syracuse University’s Career Services.

Finally, I have committed myself to being a blogger. Not only for this PR blog, but also for the “Newhouse Insider” and my personal blog “The Perpetual Creator.”

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While this is a lot, I can’t help but be grateful for all of the opportunities. Both my jobs and my internship are providing me with “real world” experience and that is invaluable. On top of that, being so busy is also helping me to prepare for a future career.

In PR it is taboo to say the word “spin.” Today, however, I am going to endorse this term. Because if spinning is what it takes to mentally transform stressful situations into opportunities, then I say spin away!

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The Use of Social Media In Corporate Branding

Anyone who has any knowledge about the public relations industry knows that social media has become an immensely useful and widely used tool. One way that these media have proved to be especially useful is in their application of corporate branding. Corporations can and do use social media to not only build brands but also maintain them.

In regards to this practice and field of study, there are three prevalent trends that occur across literature:

  1. Branding Building: It is important for all corporations to establish a strong, unique brand. Establishing a brand, especially in the online space, ensures that an organization stands out from competitors. This is especially important for corporations that may be selling products similar to those of other companies.04af6c0-600x375
  2. Public Perception: This is one of the driving concepts behind public relations. PR practitioners are employed because they are responsible for establishing trust in publics, especially consumers. Therefore it is our job to ensure that publics not only like our brands, but trust them and view them as positive forces in their life. Social media are extremely useful tools when it comes to influencing public perceptions.
  3. Reputation Maintenance: Finally, once a brand has been established, both online and in the digital space, it is important to maintain it. Social media enables corporations to socially listen to what publics are saying about their organizations. They also allow corporations to respond. Being an active and responsive listener goes a long way in maintaining reputation. Publics are more likely to trust and react positively to brands that are active on platforms, and this trust is especially useful if and when a crisis occurs.

One company that demonstrates excellent public relations, especially in regards to social media and branding, is Chobani. Having grown up in Smyrna, NY it was truly awe-inspiring to watch this national yogurt company rise from the ashes of a dilapidated building in Edmenston NY. Since its establishment in 2007, the company has grown into a large corporation that focuses on natural ingredients and an authentic lifestyle.

Recently, in May 2015 Chobani launched its newest campaign: Love This Life. The Love This Life campaign did not have a start and end date, but rather, has acted as a re-branding movement to elevate the brand status of this company.

Chobani Twitter photo

As seen above in Chobani’s Twitter cover photo and description, the campaign slogan and what seems to be the corporation’s new slogan is “To Love This Life Is To Live It Naturally.” The campaign, which focuses on authentic ingredients and life moments, is composed of several social media elements such as videos…

 

and the hashtag #LoveThisLife.

 

The company has done so well with this re-branding campaign that even some of it’s publics have taken notice.

Through this campaign, Chobani has done a great job utilizing social media to not only communicate to publics but also to communicate with them. It has taken a positively-worded hashtag and phrase and made it the focal point of a new brand identity.

By sticking with the authentic viewpoint the company was founded with, the corporation has successfully used social media and the three trends to elevate it’s status and maintain it’s already positive reputation.

In conclusion, there are a few main takeaways that PR practitioners should keep in mind when using social media for corporate branding:

  1. Brand is especially crucial for corporations and social media are extremely useful tools when managing and creating these brands.
  2. Three of the most important aspects of corporate branding are brand building, public perceptions and reputation maintenance.
  3. To successfully manage brands through social media, corporations must ensure that all employees creating brand content are unified and speaking as one voice.
  4. It is also important for corporations to identify their target audiences and ensure that these publics are listening socially.
  5.  Through successful social media use, corporate brands can be enhanced, ensuring positive public perceptions and excellent reputation maintenance.

Corporations such as Chobani demonstrate the power of successful public relations, specifically when it is put to use on social media as a means of branding.

As free channels of open two-way communication, social media are not only widely used by individuals and corporations but are extremely useful tools for corporate branding. Smart, effective use of social media can result in significantly stronger brands, both online and off.

Sources:

Chobani.com

Twitter.com/Chobani

YouTube.com/ChobaniYogurt

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/chobani-launches-new-brand-platform-and-creative-campaign-centered-on-brands-natural-values-300075816.html

We Should Talk About Diversity

We have all heard of diversity, especially those of us who have experience in higher education where people are unafraid to breach awkward topics and liberal thinking is encouraged. Diversity acknowledges that all people are different. That we are of different races and cultures with different economic upbringings. We all have unique appearances and skill sets.

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I know this, having heard it many times. Therefore I was not sure what to expect from professor Britt’s diversity lecture. I thought it would be repetitive information. Much to my surprise and my delight, it was not.

Aside from Britt’s lecture, which was informative, I learned a lot from the discussion that happened among my peers. Attending a university that strives to enroll a diverse student body, I am lucky to be in a program with people from different countries, cultures and upbringings. It was several of my peers’ insights and conversational inputs that interested me the most.

The most shocking thing that I learned was that in Russia, apparently, diversity is not only scarce but frowned upon. People are employed based on their appearance and the country as a whole is homophobic. This information came to our class from our Russian student, who also claimed  that women face general oppression in her home country.

Several of the Asian students also spoke about their experiences in China, where the minorities face prejudice and the inability to rise above their current position. They also claimed that China does not spend time addressing the issues of diversity as there are few minority citizens residing in the country.

Listening to the accounts of these students was shocking. It made me realize how fortunate I am to have grown up in a country where we strive for equality and, if nothing else, spend time talking about diversity.

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However, the discussion also prompted me to consider my own societal position. As a white female, I am of the majority in the public relations field. As with most categories of people, there are  many stereotypes that come with being a white female. Generally, it is assumed that you are spoiled, privileged and weak.

But what it really means, at least for me, is that there are many scholarships that you are unable to apply for because you are of the majority. It does not matter that you are of lower economic standing or that you struggle to make ends meet. In public relations it also means that you will be paid significantly less than your male counterparts.

This is why it is important to talk about diversity. Because people are people. Though we are different from one another in regards to upbringing and talents, we are all still human. We should not be limited by any physical aspects. It is time we stopped stereotyping and elevated everyone to the same level.

16 Weeks

Minus a two-week vacation in August, I have been blogging away on this site for the last four months, filling it with posts related to public relations and my experiences at the Newhouse School. Although I will surely revisit this blog in the future, my class-assigned posts are coming to a close this week.

On that note, I would like to take this time to highlight some of the key lessons I have learned about my future industry in the past 16 weeks. When I entered Newhouse with bachelor’s degrees in studio art and communications I was aware but not educated on the reality of being a public relations practitioner. That has changed over the past four months. Here are some of the key takeaways from this time period:

1. Public relations is 24/7.

Whether you are a student or a practitioner, PR is not an industry for the easily-fatigued. It is a job field that requires time and energy around the clock, both at work and at home. This is partially due to the rise of social media, but has more to do with the fact that PR people are responsible for both internal and external communication as well as upholding brand, reputation and image.

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2. Organized efficiency is key.

With so many responsibilities, a PR person must be absolutely skilled in working smart and efficiently. If one does not adopt excellent time management skills, one will inevitably drown in their career. For students such as myself, I get plenty of practice juggling classes, homework, my job, an hour-long commute as well as up-keeping a household and being a part of several family units.

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3. Keep calm and enjoy your career.

And yet, with all of the stress and responsibility, there is the fact that most public relations practitioners truly enjoy what they are doing for a living. Witnessing this through both my professors and guest speakers, this industry gives its employees a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It also helps creative people such as myself find fulfillment in creating stories through their work and using their creativity to solve problems and distinguish their brand.

In conclusion, it has been a very busy, very enlightening 16 weeks. I have learned an incredible amount about my future industry as well as myself. I have met incredible people, made connections and produced a lot of work. And last, but certainly not least, I have learned how to blog. So here’s to the future, the continuation of this program and my many blog posts to come.

(Be sure to check out my personal blog theperpetualcreator!)

I Want To Tell Stories

Even though I am almost into my fifth month here at Newhouse, I am still learning a lot about myself and what I want from my future career. While many of my classmates aspire to travel across the country and work for important agencies, I have a different idea in mind.

With staying local a top priority, truly loving where I live, my experiences at Newhouse have taught me that there is something I value equally. When I do finally acquire the elusive and revered job I keep hearing so much about,  I hope it allows me to be a story-teller.

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In any communications position, whether it be journalism, PR or photography, storytelling is a crucial skill (see my first blog post: “Story Craft”). And as I work my way through this program, it is a skill that I realize I enjoy most.

When I was an art major in undergrad, I added a communications degree, picking the program because it seemed broad, allowed for creativity and because it focused on writing. Although I had never considered myself a writer, self-reflection  has opened my eyes to the stable role writing has always held in my life.

English was always one of my favorite subjects and during one phase of my life I was a locally-famous singer-songwriter. As a senior I wrote and directed my own one-act play and I began writing my first novel when I was 16 years old.  I have recently revisited this novel, as I have always aspired to write and publish a book.

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Constantly producing work for my master’s degree has finally made me recognize that, whatever else I may be, I am also a writer. The program has also helped validate my skills as the writing classes and assignments are both my favorite and the ones I perform best in.

However random all of these odds and ends may seem, it all converges to form one main idea: I am a storyteller. And I am only just realizing now that as an artist, musician, playwright, actress and aspiring PR practitioner I have always been a storyteller.

A multi-media drawing I created as part of an artistic story
A multi-media drawing I created as part of an artistic story

And with this realization comes another form of validation: I am in the right professional field. Audiences want to be captivated. They want to love a brand that has personality and associate with the organizations that have the greatest story. So no matter where my future takes me, I can only hope that I will be producing stories.

Practice What You Preach

I would first like to preface this post by saying that I love Newhouse. I think it is a fantastic school with a lot to offer its students and I do truly believe it is worth the price. In approximately four months I have already learned so much and feel enormously more prepared for my future career then I did before I started my master’s degree.

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That being said, however, I have recently endured several frustrating encounters and situations in the public relations world. While it does not ruin my day or make me feel negatively towards this school, the old saying “practice what you preach” keeps coming to mind.

The situation that I am going to focus on in this post concerns the Syracuse chapter of the PRSSA, or Public Relations Student Society of America. After paying almost $100 in dues, my classmates and I who chose to become a part of this organization are now (theoretically) privy to workshops and guest speakers. I cannot speak from experience though, as I have not yet attended any of the events that I have paid for.

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This, however, is not from lack of interest. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I am not on the email list. This means I am not informed about any of these events. Curiously enough, many of my master’s program colleagues are just as uninformed as I am.

Therefore, I decided to email the president of the chapter and inquire how I could be put upon said list. Unfortunately, it has been a week and I have not received a response. Seeing they have an active Twitter presence, I then decided to tweet at them and ask them how many of us master’s students could be included on the email list. Unfortunately, the student staff is much more active when producing content compared to when they are social listening and responding. I have yet to receive a reply.

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As it turns out, many more of my classmates have also tried email and Twitter and no one has been blessed with a response.

It was not until yesterday, on my third attempt that I received a reply and confirmation that I had been put on the list. When practicing excellent public relations, your publics should not have to reach out three times before getting a response.

In the future I will remember this situation  and use it as a reminder as to what it feels like to be on the other end of bad PR. Customers, patrons and general contacts both expect and deserve a response. As a public relations practitioner I will do my absolute best to give them what they deserve in a timely fashion.

Real Life Application

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As I briefly mentioned in my previous post, I have recently been working on creating and maintaining a social media presence for the Sherburne Public Library. Although it is not the fanciest of institutions, I feel a true connection with this library, having been an employee for the past five years.

While I began as a student page and was later promoted to a clerk, I have now become the social media manager.  Although I only began managing the social media presence three weeks ago, it has already proven to be a valuable experience. Here are a few things that I have been working on:

  1. Establishing a brand: Living in a brand-oriented society, it is becoming increasingly important for all organizations to have a strong brand, both online and in the “real world.” While this library has a strong brand in the community, the online presence was seriously lacking. The Facebook page was disjointed, having several different authors who were not even attempting to speak in the same voice. Now that I am the sole author of the Facebook page, I am creating a unified presence. The voice is not my own, but rather one that the community associates with this organization.
  2. Increasing Reach and Engagement: Before I took over the social media accounts, the presence was confusing and lacking. For instance, the Facebook page was not being posted on often enough to justify its existence. In order to increase reach and engagement I have been posting to the page on a regular basis (almost every day). I also created the library’s first Twitter account. Another way I have been increasing reach is by taking my own photography and incorporating it into the online content. As mentioned previously, research and statistics indicate that by including visuals, your content will have a wider reach and be more engaging.
  3. Creating Unity: Two different Facebook pages had been created in the past five years, confusing our online publics. To improve this situation and make an authoritative presence, I began by researching the two pages and searching for the administrators. Once identified, I contacted the first admin and asked him to delete his page. The next step was contacting the admin of the second page and asking her to transfer her administrative authority to myself. I am now the sole writer for the Facebook presence.

While this may not be what Dr. Ford had in mind when she suggested we seek out internship opportunities this semester, I am proud to say that I was able to take my current paying job and  create my own internship experiences. In the past three weeks I have taken what I am learned in school and applied it in a real life situation. I have been enjoying creating and managing a brand, taking aesthetically pleasing photography, scheduling posts and tracking analytics. I am excited to see where the rest of the semester takes me.

(Here’s our new Facebook page if you are interested!)

(And Twitter too!)

Week of the W2O

As professor Reff explained to us in class, when the W2O group comes to Newhouse, it is a big deal. The W2O group is a company that describes themselves as “ecosystem of digital communications companies”. In a single day I was privy to three different experiences: a networking event and two separate presentations. Although a lot of content from the three events overlapped, there was some information that I particularly benefited from.

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The first of these benefits was a resume critique.When I attended the networking event at the Legal Seafood room, I had the opportunity of talking with Eileen O’Brien, director of media and engagement for Twist Marketing, a subsidiary of the W2O Group Company. O’Brien gave me useful feedback on my resume, telling me that while listing specific experiences is necessary, it is also useful to describe the impact of your services. For example, I am currently working on redesigning and reinstating a website and social media presence for a local library. O’Brien said that while the experience will be great, I should also take careful note of the success my efforts generate. More specifically, to keep track of the analytics, especially engagement.

Another important piece of information that I gleaned was that good writing is essential in PR. This point was especially emphasized in the first presentation I attended when Ryan Flinn, director of earned media, stressed the importance of good writing skills. Essentially, if you are applying for a PR job, strong writing skills are necessary to get in the door.

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And finally, in contemporary public relations you must be willing to learn, use and adapt to social media. Although it is a relatively new tool, social media has essentially transformed the profession of public relations, aiding in two-way communication but also creating jobs that did not exist until recently. Listening to Jennifer Katz, senior manager of analytics, describe real-world application of social media analytics made me grateful that I am currently taking the course “Social Media Theory and Practice.”

So although a lot of what the W2O employees had to say was review for my colleagues and I, there is always something to be gained by listening to professionals speak and offer advice. There is also something to be said about networking opportunities. I am grateful to say that in a single day I received professional insight about the industry, gained valuable resume advice and expanded my professional network.

Social Engagement

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As mentioned in an earlier post, a lot of my classes this semester are focused on the digital world and, more specifically, social media. Undeniably social media are a huge part of contemporary public relations and understanding the nuances of these tools help bring success in the job market.
This week we were fortunate to have visiting presenter Maren Guse, a social media practitioner from Syracuse University, in our Advanced Public Relations Writing Class. Guse presented on a variety of subtopics pertaining to the world of social media. Although much of this presentation was review from previous classes, both writing and other courses, she was able to supply some new and interesting information.

What I found most interesting was what she referred to as the 80/20 rule. When posting to social media it is important to keep your audience in mind. Although you are interested in publishing content that benefits your organization, you have to be conscious of what the audience wants. In other words, 80 percent of what  a social media professionals posts for an organization should be directly relevant to followers or “friends”. sm

It is only the small 20 percent of content that should be directly related to your company. This rule is applicable to both Twitter and Facebook, arguably the largest and widely used platforms. Long story short, users want to gain something from following you. They want to benefit from giving their attention to your profile.

Another thing that I found interesting was that Facebook’s algorithm automatically categorizes posts containing photos as more important. In other words, people are more likely to see your posts if you include a photograph. This is because the algorithm, a type of mathematical formula, is placing your post higher in the hierarchy of content. Statistics also indicate that tweets containing photographs are the most viewed as well as the most engaging.

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In regards to public relations it is important to keep both of these ideas in mind. As a PR practitioner it will be my job to engage audiences over a variety of media. As social media has evolved to become one of the most widely used forms of modern communication, it is necessary to understand what will make content more interesting and engaging.

In conclusion, your audience wants to benefit from following or “liking” your organization. They want to be entertained, engaged and, at times, educated from the relationship. In order to be successful, a social media practitioner must constantly keep their audience in mind and, when relevant, throw in a photograph.

The Power of Networking

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Within a week’s time I have attended three of the career development center’s events, those being the job hunt seminar, a seminar on finding an internship and the much-advertised career and internship fair. While they were separate events, they all revolved around the same main idea: networking.

Before I even submitted my application to Newhouse, I  attended the open house event last November. If there was one thing I took away from this “come to Newhouse” spiel, it  was that networking is the key to success. That being said, the advantage of attending this school is the Newhouse network, or as some people refer to it, the “Newhouse Mafia.” The network is essentially a database of alums and their contact information.

As explained in the job hunt seminar, we, the students, are not to treat the network as a “job bank” but as a resource. Students are supposed to narrow down their specific desires and specifications for a future career and then network appropriately.

As a public relations major, networking is especially important. PR people are sometimes referred to as “people’s people,” assuming from the title that we are skilled at communicating with publics. We are expected to be comfortable networking with strangers, presenting in front of crowds and reporting  confidently to CEOs. Perhaps, networking should be second nature to public relations practitioners.

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In some aspects, I believe that is is. I am grateful that I have always had the ability to engage people in conversation. It was because of this skill that I felt comfortable at the internship fair and now have an interview this coming Thursday. Networking over email however, is an entirely different story.

To network through an electronic means is not necessarily instinct. There are rules you must learn and follow. For instance, something taught at the job hunt seminar was that, when networking, you must check in with contacts every six weeks. This is due to the nature of the communications field and how openings appear and disappear quickly. Aside from creating a spreadsheet of possible networking contacts, we are also encouraged to keep track of our interactions with these important people.

Although overwhelming at times, learning these skills will be particularly useful to my future career as a public relations professional. It is a common joke that PR people like to talk. While most of us do, the challenge lies in knowing who to talk to and how to talk to them. Undoubtedly, there are rules to networking. Hopefully, I will learn most of them during my time here at Newhouse.