Is the Traditional Press Release a Thing of the Past?

By Yumnah Syed

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One of the greatest things about working in public relations is how fast things change. That said, it’s probably one of the most difficult aspects of working in the PR industry as well. With today’s ever-changing media landscape, PR professionals are faced with the challenge of keeping up with the shifting needs and wants of the audiences they serve and the media connections they reach out to.

I recently wrapped up a position as a PR Assistant at a boutique PR agency here in LA. One thing I noticed early on in the job was that the response to sending out a traditional press release was slower than when we sent out targeted pitches. In college, I remember a strong emphasis being placed on the importance of sending out press releases to media targets, but having worked various positions in the PR industry, my experiences have shown otherwise.

Along with sending out targeted pitches that might appeal to each specific outlet and/or reporter, it’s important to cultivate relationships with outlets and reporters. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – connect on any and every social media you can. Using hashtags for a conference or event is a great way to get on peoples’ radar. Once you connect with someone on social media you can get a sense where their interests are, and use that as background information to break the ice in a targeted pitch. Adding a slight personal touch to a pitch email could be what gets you a response over another pitch.

 

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Twitter at its Finest

By Alvin Arquisola, Treasurer & Trevett Award Chair

Reaching your audience through social media is vital in any PR efforts. Responding to your audience in a timely manner is a different story. Few companies can capitalize on current events and issues today. Here are two of my favorite examples of companies that were able to pull it off this past week.

1. Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Las Vegas – One of the most anticipated events in the United States took place last weekend known as EDC, which is organized by Insomniac Events. Roughly 134,000 people gathered from across the world in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to celebrate electronic dance music. With events such as these, there will always be various issues. Attendees had the option of getting to the venue by shuttles. Unfortunately, a number of shuttles had issues with their air conditioning. Triple digit weather and a shuttle filled with people never make for a fun experience. CEO and Founder of Insomniac Pasquale Rotella caught word of this issue and immediately reached out to people on these shuttles via Twitter.

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Rotella took it upon himself to wait at the front entrance along with his staff to hand out water to everyone who traveled by shuttle. This is one of the best examples of transparency and responsiveness by any CEO that I have recently seen.

2. Brazil World Cup, Luis Suarez and Consumer Brands – The world of sports has provided many consumer brands some great moments to capitalize on real-time tweets. Uruguay soccer player Luis Suarez has been at the brunt of these tweets for his latest antics on the soccer field when he took a bite out of Italian soccer player Giorgio Chiellini. Take a look at some of the hilarity:

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TEMP WorldCup Pic

Check out AdWeek for more comedic buzz surrounding Suarez.

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Tackling Post-Graduation Stress: What to Do to Land Your First Job

By Kaylee Weatherly, Collegiate Outreach Chair

Congratulations, graduates! You did it. You made it through a long, stressful journey and now you have a bright, new degree. Many of you have probably worked at internships during school, and hopefully they have offered you a position at the time of graduation. But if you’re going down a different path or it seems like you’re tackling extreme job anxiety, don’t worry. Here are a couple of ways to help you through the graduation stress and help you land your first entry-level job. The important thing is to hang in there. You’re going to make it!

1. Take baby steps – You can’t expect to be excellent when you start out as a beginner. And that’s okay. What’s most important is to take small steps each day to get to where you want to be. Tweak a few sentences on your resume and cover letter. Reach out for guidance to someone you haven’t spoken to in your professional network and ask for recommendations and suggestions. Everyone has a different perspective and possibly new ideas for traveling down the career path.

2. Become a PRSA Member – I’m not just suggesting this because Young Professionals is a chapter of PRSA. But honestly, they have incredible amounts of resources on how to write a killer cover letter and tailor your resume. They also have a job board of hundreds of open public relations and communications positions. Check out their PRSA Job Center and listen to their free webinars that cover career resources.

3. Talk to your network – Don’t underestimate your contacts. Let them know you’re in the job market and what kind of job or industry you are interested in pursuing. You’re not asking them for a job — you’re merely asking them to keep their ear to the ground or to help make a connection on LinkedIn. You never know if they are friends or relatives with an industry professional that is looking for a new account coordinator or communications specialist.

4. Use social media – We’re in the industry where social media is an everyday tool in our jobs. So why wouldn’t we use it in our own personal job search? We can use our many different social media platforms to follow job search engines and industry markets on Twitter and Pinterest to search for infographics on interview tips and job tools. Click here to read about more ways to use social media in the job hunt.

5. Take advantage of your alumni’s career resources- Remember that awesome school you just graduated from? They probably have a great career resource center. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with a career counselor to go over your resume or practice typical interview questions. They’re there to help, and trust me – they are a big help.

Not sure if you want to enter the job search, continue with your internship or go on to graduate school? I cover that in my previous blog post here.

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet

By VaShon Pruitt, Program Co-Chair

Another professional organization falls victim to the allure of 140 characters. The Washington Redskins have been engulfed in controversy, due to owner Dan Snyders’ unwillingness to change the team’s name after facing pressure by disgruntled fans and more importantly, Native Americans who find the racial slur offensive. The Redskins have carried the name since 1937, but the continued vocalization by offended Native Americans in addition to fifty United States Senators calling for a changing of the name, has brought what many believe to be a malicious insult to Native Americans to the forefront of the National Football League.

In an effort to counter attack against the name-change movement, the Redskins on Thursday, May 30, decided to dive headfirst into what would prove to be a social media nightmare by urging fans to “Tweet @senatorreid to show your #RedskinsPride and tell him what the team means to you.” One would have to believe the out-of-touch Redskins’ executives did not seek the counsel of a PR professional prior to pressing send, as proper counsel could have easily combated such poor decision-making. But hey, I’m an owner whose team has a valuation of 1.7 billion dollars, thanks to my own genius. Why would I need the counsel of PR before making this decision? I just want to “engage” my audience, says everyone who thinks they know the “secret sauce” to having success on social media.

As PR professionals, it is not only our job to be experts in media relations, but it is also our duty to provide the best counsel possible to our clients. Media crisis can easily be adverted with a proper plan in place, however, with the rise of social media and the “need” to get consumers engaged in real-time, more times than not, the proper channels are not taken, resulting in the sudden rise of social media crisis as of late.

Social media has proven time and time again that it is one of the most unpredictable tools of our day. There is no 1+1= 2 formula to success, and once you press send, be prepared to embrace the storm – be it a slight overcast or a thunderstorm of little blue flocking birds tweeting to the same cadence.

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“Chef” Movie: 3 PR Lessons And A Lie Wrapped in a Chef’s Coat

Chef-2014-Movie-Poster1-650x955By Tanaya Ghosh, Communications Co-Chair

While watching the much-lauded film, “Chef,” I noticed that a lot of things actually made sense about the film. Not just the accuracy of the culinary scenes (which, too, were spot-on), but also a few aspects related to public relations. Being a PR strategist but also having worked on the journalism side, I found myself cheering the film on for some very important points it successfully illustrated. My hope is that this will help those not in our industry to better understand a few things about our work as well.

Not to fear, I won’t give away any critical parts of the movie. “Chef” is not strictly for foodies, because the human element of the film also resonates strongly. But seeing as we are PR folks who view the world through our uniquely strategic lenses, here are the 3 ways “Chef” draws attention to some important PR truths:

1. The Dangers, Benefits and Viral Powers of Social Media

When a prominent public figure presses the “Tweet” button after furiously typing up a heated 140-character-or-less message, all hell can break loose. Especially when they don’t fully understand their audience, nor the intricacies of how the social media platform works. That’s where we, the PR experts, step in and help the person or organization figure it all out before sending something out into the Twitterverse (and beyond) that can never be undone. The film also clearly conveys the potential for PR greatness via social media, but with one caveat: the little kid running the food truck’s PR doesn’t need the strategic planning that a majority of organizations do, because the average organization doesn’t have massive notoriety to begin with… as opposed to this world-famous chef, who is the main character in the movie. Most people actually need someone to help them maximize the potential for social media success, and those who scoff at the idea severely underestimate the task at hand. So no, managing a personality or brand on social media is not as easy as the film makes it look. But it can be as nightmarish as the film portrays.

2. Good PR Often Goes Unnoticed

Oftentimes, “good PR” means being proactive and keeping your clients out of the news, when there is potential for them to be in the media for the wrong reasons.You want to squash an inaccurate and negative story before it gets out there, and be able to tell the organization’s side of the story before a one-sided attack on you our your organization has a chance to get out there. So really, great PR is often what doesn’t get written about, and what you don’t actually see. Furthermore, the public is quick to point fingers to and put the blame on “bad PR” when a crisis hits an individual or organization. : 1. CEO’s and other leaders chose not to heed the PR team’s advice early on and went “rogue”; 2. It’s an operational or service issue that is not rooted in PR; 3. The person or organization didn’t have a proper PR team in place until the crisis got out of hand. If you come running to us, like in the movie, when it’s already hit the fan, we realistically can’t undo the damage so quickly, if at all. We may work wonders with our expertise and media know-how, but unfortunately not even we are full-breed magicians.

3. Egos Must Take A Back Seat to Bridge the Communication Gap

Whether it’s a food critic or business media, sometimes writers don’t know the full story of their subject, and they unfortunately go for the angle that will make the biggest headlines, or boost their image as a discerning critic, for example. As the film shows, understanding that communication is necessary for both parties is essential for mutual success, instead of allowing egos to make us defensive, confrontational and uncooperative. The best PR folks are those who understand both sides of the PR-journalist relationship and try to find a mutually beneficial way to work together for the long run. Instead of secretly despising reporters, some of us not only like getting to know them, but also respect their craft and understand what they need to do their job well. This is one way that coming from a journalism background helps you in PR. If you haven’t worked on the journalism side, I’d suggest meeting with a journalist friend and really picking their brain on what the working relationship is like for them. Ask them honest questions, and expect honest answers. Ask them what irks them, and what catches their eye. It will open your eyes to the world beyond your and your clients’ interests, and help you do your job better, as well.

And now, for the one PR lie in “Chef”…

The publicist portrayed in the film was a stereotypical, comedic caricature that was a misrepresentation of the majority of people in the industry. Yes, we are fast-moving and efficient, and yes, we think out of the box and often urge the client to go beyond their comfort zone. But we ultimately do want what’s best for the client, instead of pushing half-baked ideas on them as portrayed in “Chef.” You’ll have to see the movie, but I can tell you this much… not all PR folks are pushy, high-strung, or just plain crazy. We build relationships with clients, their audiences and the media. And those of us who succeed in the long run are the people who have mastered the art of listening, interpersonal communication and relationships.

Tanaya Ghosh, a PRSA-LA Communications Chair, has worked as a PR and branding strategist since graduating with an M.A. in Strategic Public Relations from USC Annenberg. To connect with Tanaya go here, or follow her blog, Tanaya’s Table. You can also follow her on Twitter @TanayaG.

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PRSSA 2nd Annual Conference

By Jade Stevens, President

On Saturday, April 12, PRSA-LA’s Young Professionals (YP) made an appearance at PRSSA 2nd  Annual Conference. Hosted at Loyola Marymount University, the one-day conference was jam packed with informative panel discussions featuring veteran communications professionals from agencies including Allison + Partners, H+K Strategies, The LAGRANT Foundation, NBC Universal, among others. President Jade Stevens, Program Co-Chair VaShon Pruitt and Collegiate Outreach Chair Kaylee Weatherly spoke to the students during their lunch about personal experiences of working in the industry. Having all recently entered the communications arena, the students felt connected to board members’ honest advice.
If you are interested in volunteering and helping out YP email jade@prsala.org. For upcoming events, follow us on Twitter at @YPofPRSALA and Facebook Young Professionals of PRSA- Los Angeles.

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Not just a buzzword: Storytelling In Action

By Andrea Johnson, Program Chair

A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. – Seth Godin

Over 6.6 million viewers tuned in to the Game of Thrones Season 4 premeire on April 6th, 2014 at 9 p.m. Another 1.6 million followed at 11, making it HBO’s most watched episode since the 2007 series finale ofThe Sopranos.

Considering that today’s technology allows us to watch our favorite shows whenever and wherevunnameder we want, those ratings are probably higher. But with so many ways to tune in, people are no longer captive audiences. Marketing and PR teams have to work harder to grasp our attention. Which, in an ADD culture like this one, is no easy feat.

Using a special kind of magic over the last 3 years, Game of Thrones has become one of  America’s favorite television shows.

How? What makes us stop and pay attention? What makes us murderous about Scandal spoilers? What makes us root for the underdog on The Voice who was bullied in elementary school? What keeps our fingers crossed for the stylish wife and her emotionally conflicted lover?

It’s all in the story.

The best stories quickly grab us from the beginning, provide enough mystery to keep us guessing, and affirm every suspicion or surprise us completely. Great storytelling always leaves us wanting more.

It’s also the not-so-secret sauce of marketing and public relations. And while the term “storytelling”  may be overused, its significance will always remain. My boss, your boss, the media–they all want to know, what is compelling about this story? How are we going to make sure it strikes a chord in our audience?

The goal is to craft something interesting enough to open hearts (and maybe wallets, too.)

Storytelling is called an art because some folks make it look effortless.They don’t solely rely on what’s worked in the past. These brands aren’t afraid to experiment a little, laugh at themselves, and find the under-appreciated facets of their product.

Domino’s “Powered by Pizza” campaign is a perfect example. It honors the student, the grassroots activist, and the entrepreneur that “runs” on pizza during the creative process. To which you might say, “Of course we’re powered by pizza, it’s at nearly every study session, gathering, etc!” See? Effortless.

Here are a few more of my favorite ad and PR campaigns.

Guinness: Not your average beer commercial, in fact I was waiting for the joke. Seconds later… heart strings pulled! https://www.youtube.com/embed/xwndLOKQTDs?feature=player_embedded

Mama Hope: Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential. Revolutionary…although it shouldn’t be. Kudos for looking for the authentic and fresh story line. https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ww9tksKKH-Y?feature=player_embedded

Honda: Let’s see what curiosity can do. I’m not sure if they stopped at the ad or made this a full PR campaign. Can you imagine what could be done with that tag? Everything. #hashtagmania https://www.youtube.com/embed/Dxy4n0UT82o?feature=player_embedded

Dove: 10 years ago, this campaign ignited a conversation about “real beauty”. I love the authenticity of the message and what it’s both affirming and cautioning against. Find it here.

Consider me a student. As a practiced rambler, I’m working on telling a story or speech succinctly. (The length is the flair! Right? No?)  I guess that’s why I swoon over clever campaigns and commercials.

Who do you think has done a convincing job with storytelling? What brands have succeeded in drawing you into their world?

P.S. GE’s #6secondsciencefair  Vine campaign takes me back to elementary school!

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