DePaul University Regional Activity

This past weekend I had the exciting chance to make my first trip to the Midwest and visit Chicago.  In addition to going to Millennium Park, the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) and Lincoln Park and seeing the Bean and Lake Michigan (I have never seen a Great Lake before), I had the chance to attend DePaul University’s Regional Activity, Transforming Traditional into Digital: The New Ways of PR (@NewWaysPR).  I have worked closely with the coordinator, Jamie Harris, since September, and her hard work truly paid off.  They had a great conference full of agency tours, intelligent and informative speakers and a career fair.  Their organization made the conference flow very smoothly and go off without a hitch.  Jamie and the entire conference committee should be very proud of their hard work and success!

I had the chance to sit in on their keynote speaker, Rick Murray, President of Edelman Chicago, Chris Barr, Yahoo! Senior Editorial Director, and Trent Frager, Senior Vice President at GolinHarris.  All three speakers were very informative and taught us a lot about the changing landscape of public relations.

Rick Murray, President of Edelman Chicago

It was very interesting to hear Rick Murray speak again.  When I was a freshman, he spoke at Boston University’s Regional Activity, and I found it very interesting to hear about the changes in public relations from that time until now.  He started off by telling us that the job descriptions for what we’ll all be doing in five years won’t be written for another five years.  But that’s what keeps the industry exciting – it is always changing, and there is always something new to learn.  As the former president of Edelman Digital, he knows this fact better than anyone.

The three questions that we need to ask as PR practitioners are:

1) What should you destroy?

2) What should you preserve?

3) What should you create?

Public relations is about public engagement and finding out what is important to an audience.  Murray said we play in the space of truth and authenticity, and it is important to blend passion and purpose to reach out and truly connect with an audience.  The content used to reach an audience will vary from person to person.  Some people want their information on their phone, some want it on their iPad and some want it in a newspaper.  In a time when there are so many ways to reach out to people, it is important to focus on media, ALL types of media.  That means new, old, traditional, everything.

To become a successful PR professional, it is important to keep a few things in mind.

1) Stay on top of what influences culture and the public.

2) Live and work global.  (With new ways to immediately reach people around the work, it is important to have a global way of thinking.)

3) Create value every day by thinking about goals you can measure.

4) Find your passion, and chase it.  If you are not passionate about your work, you are hurting yourself, your company and your client.

5) Making mistakes is how you grow.  Don’t be afraid to make them.

Chris Barr, Yahoo! Senior Editorial Director

Chris Barr gave some valuable advice when writing for the Internet versus written publications.  Writing online is VERY different especially when 79% of people scan web pages, and half of adults in the United States read at the 8th grade level or lower.  So in order to keep attention for as long as possible, it is necessary to do a few things.

1) Get to the point.

2) Make text scannable.

3) Write for the world.

When organizing your story, it is important to keep a few things in mind in order to once again keep the attention of your readers.

1) Front-load the most important information.  People will stop reading at some point on the web page so it is important to get as much information up front as possible.

2) You have 3-5 seconds to hook readers.

3) Limit stories to about 300 words per page.

In a digital world, it is also important to think about how the story will appear on a mobile device.  Now more than ever, people are reading news on the go on their cell phones.

Finally, he spoke about headlines and how to write them in a way that will be clear to readers and appear in search engines.  His overall advice for this aspect of writing online was that accuracy and clarity are more important than cleverness.

Trent Frager, Senior Vice President at GolinHarris

The focus of this session was crisis communications.  In particular, he focused on the impact of social media on a crisis, something that agencies have had to learn over the past few years.  There is now a lot less predictability about how your company is perceived in a crisis.  Even so, only 20.7% of companies have social media crisis plans set.  That is very low considering the impact that social media tools have on a crisis.

From the company’s perspective, it is important to have a few plans in place in case of a crisis.

1) Assess your footprint.  Figure out where your audience is on the Internet, and make sure you are interacting with them.  When a crisis hits, it will be helpful to have this contact already in place.

2) Find the right team to work on a crisis.  Prepare an advisory group.  Provide social media response training.  Online reputation management requires a strong team.

3) Be able to distinguish “baseline chatter” vs. an escalating issue.  Some people may complain online about your company, but it may not truly affect the company’s overall image.  It is important to be able to discern between the two.

All three speakers truly hit on the changing landscape of public relations.  While it is important to remember to interact with traditional media outlets, it is also important to learn how to converse with an online audience.  Whether writing a basic story or dealing with a crisis, there is a completely different set of skills necessary to succeed with social media.

And once again, congratulations to DePaul University on a fantastic Regional Activity!


2010 PRSSA National Conference – Washington, D.C.

Time for my much overdo blog post!  But it was worth the wait.  For the last few weeks, my life has been consumed with planning for the PRSSA National Conference.  And last week, I had the honor of attending the conference in Washington, D.C.  From October 15 to October 19, I met about 1,000 PRSSA students across the country, networked with professionals at the PRSA International Conference, attended Chapter Development Sessions and Professional Development Sessions, learned about other Chapters and some of their exciting events and even held a session about Regional Activities.  It always inspires and amazes me how much different public relations students dedicate to improve their Chapters and themselves and future public relations professionals.

The speakers at the Conference were fantastic.  I didn’t get to sit in on as many as I would have liked, but I did get the opportunity to hear many of them.

Jim Margolis, senior partner at GMMB, was the keynote speaker for PRSSA.  He told us all about his involvement in the Obama campaign and some of the different strategic approaches they took to win.  In comparison to past years, they focused on young people and embraced the Internet.  He spoke about a lot of their social media strategies aimed at reaching a younger audience (which obviously proved successful).  They used a really impressive iPhone app to recruit volunteers to get the word out to vote.  They also put together 2,000 videos but 440,000 more user generated videos were created.  He ended off by saying “when you have big stresses, big change is possible.”  He was a great speaker and definitely inspirational about what can be accomplished.

I also attended a speed networking session with professionals from Booz Allen Hamilton, the Air Force, the MWW Group andOur Lady of Victory Homes of Charity.  I was in a group of other students as well, and we spoke about some of our interests in the field of PR.  But the four professionals also gave us some advice on networking and finding the perfect job.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Get the other person talking about what they are passionate about.
  • As soon as you get back, touch base.
  • It is important to see energy and that the person knows how to present themselves.
  • The first impression is key.  This includes your outfit, shoes, purse and overall appearance.

I attended a session on Crisis Communications with Eliot Brenner, Director, Office of Public Affairs at the Nuclear Regulatory CommissionLaura Brown, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs at the Federal Aviation Administration and Richard Levick, President & CEO of Levick Strategic Communications.  The highlights of this session include:

  • Communicate early, often and clearly.
  • The goal in a crisis is to shorten the time between the start of a crisis and return to business as usual.
  • It is vital to be able to rely on people in your own organization.  These relationships need to be developed in advance.  You also need to build relationships with those outside your organization.
  • Always have a pen and paper ready when working with crisis communication.
  • First seek to understand then to be understood.

The last session I attended was called “Where Coding and Communication Meet” with Nick Lucido, National PRSSA President and Associate at Edelman DigitalBrandi Boatner, External Relations Professional at IBM Global Business Servicesand Mary Henige, Director, Social Media and Digital Communications at General Motors.  Some of the highlights from their presentation include:

  • Your LinkedIn profile is nearly as important as your resume
  • Follow companies and people you are interested in, and periodically engage with them.
  • Treat your online relationships like your offline relationships.
  • Identify trends in a particular industry or area of interest.
  • Have an integrated approach using social media in your search.

Overall, the conference was a great success.  The Conference Coordinators did a fantastic job bringing in different professionals from various areas of public relations, and everyone had a fantastic time.  If you are interested in hearing more about the conference, check the #prssanc hashtag.  Many attendees are posting their blog posts and thoughts from the conference.  See everyone in Seattle at #prssana!


Verizon & Z100 Partnership to Encourage People to Stop Texting & Driving

Today I was driving around town running errands and listening to Z100 (oh the beauty of being back in New Jersey).  A commercial came on about their newest partnership with none other than Verizon Wireless.  If you know me, this clearly earned my undivided attention.  They are starting an initiative called “Please Don’t Text and Drive.”

Basically, high school students have the chance to take a pledge that they will not text while driving.  The pledge says, “I pledge to not text while driving.  I also promise to avoid using my cell phone at all times while operating a vehicle, for both my safety and for everyone I share the road with.  I’ll also encourage my friends and family to do the same.”  The high school that has the highest percentage of participants will win a free concert with Jason Derulo.

Even though I have to admit I am guilty of texting while driving, I think this partnership is so smart.  Z100 is the perfect outlet to reach a lot of teenagers in the tri-state area.  Verizon Wireless is the carrier of the majority of cell phones in this area as well.  The right company (Verizon) is trying to get the attention of the drivers who are most guilty of texting and driving, and they are using the perfect outlet to do so.

Verizon’s first promise is to their customers.  In addition to providing them with quality service, they are not taking the extra step to protect them and work toward eliminating a problem.  When companies take this extra step to connect with their customers, they can be even more successful.

A few months ago I saw a billboard on the way to New York City from Verizon asking drivers to stop texting while they were operating a vehicle.  These subtle advertisements, especially while people are driving, can really make a difference and make people remember the dangers of texting and driver.  Like I said before, I do text and drive, but when I saw this billboard, I did not text and drive for the remainder of my car ride.

Z100 has the right idea to use their connections with artists to partner with Verizon for a good cause.  I do not know much about Jason Derulo, but he is doing a great thing by offering his time to make a difference in high school students’ lives.

Overall, great campaign, great ideas, and a great marketing strategy by all parties involved.


Boston University Hockey 2009

For anyone who did not see this past Saturday’s events, check out Not only did Boston University win the national championship in hockey, but they won in overtime after scoring two goals in 42 seconds at the end of the third period.  If Boston University did not seem a school with “spirit,” like Boston College or Notre Dame, it sure has spirit now.

To start off, Dean Elmore, the dean of students, knows how to create spirit in the hearts of people.  Just look at this video: A parade in honor of this special event!  Since when does Boston University do this for its students?  Then again, we have not won a championship like this since 1995.  Is it wrong that a school will mediocre spirit at best all of a sudden takes advantage of an event like this to gain attention from others?

NOT AT ALL!  Boston University has every right to gain attention from potential students and show the country what it is all about.  BU does in fact have spirit but is not given a lot of attention compared to some of the larger schools nearby.  So what we do not have a football team!  We can compete with BC’s football spirit with our spirit for hockey.  With a comeback like the terriers had this past Saturday, it is definitely deserved.

When potential students come to Boston University to look at the campus, they always ask about the spirit.  How does BU show spirit without a football team?  Do students go to games?  Are sports a big deal on campus?  In the past, the answer may have been that sports are not stressed as much here as other places, but this trend is changing.  People want to see this hockey team who has achieved so much this year.  With all these championships and future NHL players, who knows where it will take us next year…


Is PR Everywhere?

I was sitting at services tonight for the holiday.  Halfway through the service, one of the student representatives stood up and started speaking about her experiences at Boston University.  She spoke of the time when she was a freshman and came to college not knowing a single person.  She had to adjust to the city, her classes, her schedule, her activities—her new life.  She spoke about how she found comfort and a home in Hillel.  There was a group of people she could turn to and form a bond with who shared the same religious and moral values as herself.  They quickly became friends and she finally felt comfortable being so far from home.  After telling her heartwarming story, she began to ask the audience to donate to Hillel to help its programs and build the Jewish community.  As I sat there, I wondered – is this the way many non-PR professionals feel when they hear a campaign or a pitch for a PR story?  Many people outside of the PR world feel that PR professionals twist stories to convince or influence others or put “spin” on a story.  As I sat in the service, I felt as if someone was trying to influence me even though they were simply doing a job that I am looking to pursue.  She was only trying to help benefit a program she feels so passionately about, and isn’t that exactly what I will be doing in the future?