PR Advanced: Brand Yourself

As the co-coordinator for this year’s Regional Activity, PR Advanced: Brand Yourself, the last six months of my life have been dedicated to planning and executing this event.  I am extremely passionate about three things: PRSSA, event planning, and most importantly, the Regional Activity.  That made the last six months of my life not easier, but enjoyable.  After working hard to secure speakers in December after worrying that they would not want to attend the event, working with Boston University’s Student Activities Office to fill our paperwork, figuring our logistics, schedules, committee agendas, delegating tasks to the conference committee, seeking sponsorship and career fair participants, promoting the event through social media outlets, talking to other chapters via TwitterFacebook, e-mail, and phone calls, and more (I seriously could ramble on and on), the event finally came together on February 27, 2010.  Not only did we have a stellar line-up of speakers, but we had a stellar committee and as Brandi Boatner, Immediate National PRSSA President put it, ROCK STARS as our participants.

The committee arrived at the Photonics Center to begin setting up at 8:00 am.  One of the things that I really liked that we did this year was having donations to send to Haiti.  We always have a raffle, and usually every participant gets a raffle ticket.  But this year, we charged for raffle tickets and were able to raise $87 to send to Haiti.  We also had people sign up forPenelope Trunk’s website, Brazen Careerist.

To start out the conference, Chelsea Alexander (the other conference co-coordinator) and I introduced Penelope Trunk, who spoke about her five tips to branding.

1) Stick with it: She told us that she was awake at 5:00 in the morning before coming to our conference to write a blog post to send to her editor.  That is pretty early, but she knew that is what she had to do.  I know what she means.  I have stuck with my blog for almost two years now.  I try to write a blog post at least once a week (it usually ends up being 2-3 per month) because I know that I have something to say.  I can come up with an idea.  I can write what is on my mind.  And I can give up 30-40 minutes to do so.

2) Be optimistic: You might not succeed the first time.  You might not even succeed the second time.  But if you stick with it (see above) and stay optimistic, good things will come.  You need to be positive in order to make things work.

3) Do cool things: Attending the conference is cool.  Joining and becoming involved in PRSSA is cool.  I think I already have this one set!

4) Take leaps: Do something you would not normally do.  Take chances.  Take risks.  Great things do not happen to those who simply wait on the sideline.

5) Be known for your ideas: In a world where people might be afraid of other stealing your ideas, YOU CAN’T BE.  If someone takes one of your ideas, great-you had an AWESOME idea.  There are more where that came from.  Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to tell everyone what you are thinking.

The next part of the conference was a breakout session.  There were 5 speakers: Jacob Cass, junior creative at Carrot CreativeHeather Huhman, founder and president of Come RecommendedJoe Januszewski, vice president of corporate partnerships at the Boston Red SoxLinda Shear, executive coordinator of Whole Foods, and Karen Raskopf, senior vice president of corporate communications at Dunkin’ Brands.  I was running all over the place, but I did have the chance to stop by Heather Huhman’s session for a little bit.  She spoke about the importance of buying your own domain name, starting a blog and website (I have the blog part, now I need the website part), buying business cards, and really developing your brand.  She told us to Google ourselves and see what comes up.  I have to admit, I have a Google Alert for my name, and I do Google myself from time to time.  My blog,TwitterFacebook (I have mine completely public-I am proud of my Facebook and have nothing to hide), PRSSA involvement,LinkedIn pageJSPRAA scholarship awardhigh school basketball statsGold Congressional Award, and others come up.  Sometimes, pages that say “Rachel sprung into action” come up, but for the most part, my personal brand through Google is in tact.  Phew!  I can check that off!

After lunch, we had another breakout session, where participants were able to attend another of the five speakers from above.  I was welcoming speakers for the next part of our day, so I helped set things up instead of attending a session.

Our next part was dedicated to the HR Panel.  We had Chris Gaturu from the Federal Reserve Bank of BostonKate DiChristopher from Marina Maher CommunicationsMaggie van der Leeuw from Burson-Marsteller, and Jason Glashow fromFleishman-Hillard.  They sat at a table in front of all the participants.  The cool part about this session was that we had a projector showing TweetDeck in the back.  I was the moderator and alternated between taking questions from the audience and taking questions from TweetDeck.  It was an interesting combination of corporate, boutique, and larger agency points-of-view.  For example, Chris thought that your GPA should always be on your resume, and Jason did not agree.  The larger agencies looked for certain qualities that the smaller agencies did not.  The agencies expected written thank you notes, while corporate expected you to shine in an interview without the thank you note being too influential.  It was interesting to see them go back and forth about these issues.  It was also interesting to hear about using Skype for interviews (especially when people are interviewing from other countries), the use of e-portfolios, assessments on site after interviews, etc.  We spoke about the role of social media, of course, and how that influences a candidate’s chance of an internship or job.  They all did agree upon one thing: ASK QUESTIONS IN AN INTERVIEW.  If you are properly prepared for an interview, you should know a lot about the company, and you should have a question based on that research.  Before you step in the door, know a company from the front to the back.  If you really want the internship, PROVE IT!

Next, Brandi Boatner spoke about PRSSA and encouraged participants to join and utilize all the benefits this organization provides.  Now she knows how to energize and excite an audience!  I’m already an active member of PRSSA, but listening to her speak only made me want to be even more involved.  She was seriously the energy of the conference, especially when everyone was growing tired toward the end.  I cannot wait to see her again soon!

Next, I introduced our keynote, Fiona Morrisson, director of brand and advertising at JetBlue.  Her presentation was wonderful!  She told us how JetBlue branded itself against larger companies in a way to ensure success.  One way was they said they were “jetting” instead of “flying” from place to place.  They used the slogan “Happy jetting.”  She also spoke about the creation of T5 in the JFK airport to give customers the ultimate JetBlue experience from the time the person arrives at the airport to the time they are gathering their bags at the destination’s airport.  Then she connected everything back to personal branding and how important it is for all individuals.  She was truly fabulous and fantastic.  During the career fair, many people approached her.

The career fair was truly spectacular.  We had agencies including 360 Public RelationsBurson-MarstellerBusiness WireConeEdelmanFleishman-HillardHubSpot,Internshipratings.comMarina Maher CommunicationsML StrategiesMorrissey & CompanyMS&L WorldwideOn-MessagePRSA BostonPub Club of New EnglandRacepoint GroupSolomon McCown, and TalentCulture.  And during this time, we also found out that we were the #2 trending topic in Boston (see above picture)!

Following the career fair, we went to Eastern Standard for appetizers and conversations.  This gave us the opportunity to talk further with professionals and may students from out of the state.  Participants were glowing with all of the information they had learned throughout the day.  It was truly fabulous to hear how grateful they were to attend an event like this.  I was proud of our committee and the event we were able to plan, but I also had great pride when I heard this was the best conference they had ever been to.  I was approached by many people asking if they could meet me to talk about getting an internship, even if they did not have experience.  They wanted to get involved in PRSSA.  They wanted to start their own blogs.  They wanted to create websites.  They just wanted to make sure they were properly branding themselves.  THAT is what these conferences is all about.  I’m truly proud to have been involved in this for my third year.

Also, a special thanks to our sponsors: ConeConover Tuttle PaceMorrissey & CompanyOn-MessagePRSA Boston,Staples, and TalentCulture.  We look forward to your support in the future!

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Minier Coke Can

Going off of the last blog post on branding, Coca Cola Company has done it again.  This December, it is coming out with a 90-calorie mini can, similar to its 100-calorie mini can that they came out with a few years ago (http://www.ajc.com/business/coke-mini-can-to-162682.html).  Instead of the normal 12 ounce can, it will be 7.5 ounces.  However, I question the marketing strategy behind this new product.

First of all, there are many health issues related to this new product.  Even though Coke has a new health initiative by partnering with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation by encouraging a healthy balance between its products and others and exercising, this new product goes against this plan.  Even though it is less calories, what other artificial chemicals are put into this product to make it taste similar to the normal sized Coke products?  Additionally, it has been proven that when there are food products with fewer calories, people eat or drink more of them.  Whereas a person would have stopped at the 155 calorie cans, they will now drink two of the smaller cans, which add up to 190 calories.  So much for drinking/eating fewer calories with these smaller cans.

Also, many people grab Coke out of vending machines or at gas stations.  However, these unique cans will not be sold in these places, eliminating this large target segment.  Yes, they will be sold in grocery stores, but the availability of Coke at multiple places is part of its charm.

I’m sure the product will be successful.  After all, Coke has the most valuable brand out there.  However, there are clear complications against it from the availability to the health concerns.  Yes, there will be people who simply drink the one smaller can and do not drink more, proving the benefits of the product.  But there will also be the people who drink more cans because mentally they think they are drinking less (which is something I would do).  Despite these factors, it is a good strategy to launch the product in New York City and Washington, D.C. before introducing it to rest of the country in December.  They will be able to adjust their marketing strategies and hopefully put the product in place to be more successful.  However, there are definitely hardships to come, and it may turn out that it is worth only having the 100-calorie mini can.  We’ll see how it does next year!

Brand Loyalty – Do You Follow This Rule?

Brand Loyalty – How does it happen?  From a good experience?  From a bad experience with competing brands?  What makes a person decide they will pay a higher price for one product over another SIMPLY because of its brand?  How are some brands worth millions of dollars, like Coca Cola?

In my Marketing class, I was asked “Are you brand loyal?  For what brands?”  It was funny to hear this question directed toward me because among my friends I am known to base my purchasing decisions off of the brand.  From Coca Cola to Red Bull to Verizon to LG to Poland Spring to even Advil (I NEVER take Tylenol), my decisions are based entirely off the name on the label of the package.

For example, I have always ADORED Verizon.  I cannot even grasp the notion that I would ever have another cell phone carrier.  However, with my Verizon phones, I will never buy a Motorola or Samsung phone; it will ALWAYS be LG (see my earlier blog post about LG phones).  My first phone was an LG phone, and of course, I was in love with my phone being a teenager with a cool new “toy.”  My next phone was a Samsung phone, and I went through 7 of them in a year and a half.  I think my brand loyalty to LG was instilled after this bad experience because I refused to buy anything but an LG phone after that (my new two phones were LG, and I have been completely satisfied with them).

Clearly, that was an example of a good experience leading me to be brand loyal.  But have you ever had a bad experience with another brand that pushed you to be brand loyal to a new brand?  During Passover, I am stuck drinking water with a Kosher for Passover label.  The brand: Evian.  I know everyone thinks that all water tastes the same, but I bed to differ.  I don’t know if it is the way the different companies purify the water or the plastic bottle they choose, but water tastes different to me.  As for Evian water, I cannot STAND it!  It may be because I drink only Evian during Passover, which is associated with other food that doesn’t taste good, but I have become 100% loyal to Poland Spring water.  Even when I am at college, I buy Poland Spring bottles in bulk, even if that means carrying them from the convenience store to my apartment (even though I have beat the system by finding a place that delivers them to your doorstep with no shipping cost).

Another aspect of branding that surprises me is the amount of money some of these brands are worth.  In 2009, Coca Cola’s brand value rose 3% to $68.73 billion according to Interbrand.  (Among the other brands with top values are IBM, Google, Nintendo, and Sony.)  How is a brand able to be worth THAT MUCH money?  It is truly fascinating that a company can earn so much money off of a brand.  Granted, everyone recognizes Coca Cola’s red color and font, but it is still impressive that they earn that much revenue through its brand recognition.

Brand loyalty surrounds my life, but how many other people base decisions off of brand loyalty?  How many consumers would stick with an Apple iPod if another company came out with a similar iPod?  How many consumers pay more for energy drinks like Red Bull when drinks like Monster are larger but cost less?  (I am guilty to that one!)  Stay tuned for another blog post about branding (our regional conference theme)!