Learning From The Pros

Networking.   Courtesy of Ed2Go.com

Networking      Courtesy of Ed2Go.com

As students we take countless courses to prepare us for our future careers in public relations. Sitting in class we learn a lot about the technical and practical skills to improve our web design, craft content to engage audiences on social media and websites. All these skills are important tools for us to be successful post-graduation.

Now as I and thousands of others get ready to walk across the stage it’s time to land a professional job.

Three public relations professionals, each with more than a decade of professional experience, offered insight into what industry leaders are looking for in new hires during a recent luncheon hosted by the Dallas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America during the chapter’s 2016 annual Pro-Am Professional PR Job Shadowing program.

According to these public relations leaders, new graduates should:

Accept Change – Nothing every stays the same. With technology constantly changing at a rapid rate it is imperative that professionals in our industry stay updated on the best ways to engage members of the intended target audiences.  We show our value to our clients during times of crisis.

Be Innovative –   Students and young industry professionals need to volunteer for additional assignments, even if they must work late into the evening, weekends and holidays. This makes you indispensable. Being willing to assist in solving issues also demonstrates leadership.

Relationship Building Savvy –  It’s not uncommon for relations professionals to build partnerships with media representatives, corporate partners, high-profile spokespeople and donors.  Knowing how to properly interact with these individuals can result in the needs of stakeholders being properly met.

Excellent Communication Prowess –  Communication is key in our industry. Whether it’s a written article or public speaking people in our industry must be able to deliver the appropriate message.  Some  young adults communicate, using emojis and slang. That will work on some advertising campaigns. It is not acceptable for professional communications to members of the media and various stakeholders.

Thank you to panelists – March of Dimes Communications Director Carmen Branch, President/CEO of Public Affairs for Hill + Knowlton Strategies James Fuller and Corporate Communications Consultant Jane Koenecke for taking the time to share their valuable insights and tips of the public relations industry.

Public Relations – Keep Learning & Growing

This fall my strategic public relations course offered a wide variety of lessons in the do’s and don’ts of public relations. Coming from a career in the journalism field I thought I knew everything I needed for public relations. I quickly learned I was not as insightful as I thought.

The overall techniques of public relations are the same whether you are handling corporate communications, working at an agency where you handle a variety of clients or working in a government role. Before this course, I did not realize how important research or evaluation was to an effective communications campaign.

Two Way Discussion Image courtesy of Mashable.com

Don’t just speak to your audience. Engage with them. Image courtesy of Mashable.com

R – Research

A – Analyze

           C – Communicate

E – Evaluate

Some lessons I learned in class directly from my professor.  She always impressed on us to never stop writing. The more you write the better you hone your craft to carefully reach your audience. She also pointed how we can continue to learn how to best handle issues through analyzing public relations situations.

Some lessons were gleaned through interviews with industry professionals, such as Jamaison Schuler, APR and senior director of corporate communications for Dean Foods, and guest classroom speaker Morgan Lyons, who is the assistant vice-president of communications and community engagement for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART).

Schuler, a devoted Public Relations Society of America former officer, advised me that working in a public relations agency setting is a great way for someone new to the industry to experience a broad range of industry genres.

It is important to discover – do you prefer to be the strategic mind behind the a new product launch or do you prefer the hands-on work of the nuts and bolts of public relations where you write and interact with various segments of your targeted audience.

Lyons reinforced the notion it’s better for an organization to be great in a limited number of social outreach avenues than try to tackle the ever-growing number of social media avenues.

Sometimes people can learn a great deal about public relations through analyzing how officials handle breaking news coverage throughout the nation.

Earlier this week it was readily apparent that during a press conference it is important to not only remain calm and in charge of the situation, but to remember to rephrase each question from reporters during your answers. Remember as a spokesperson you can hear the reporter’s questions. The viewing audience in cyberspace or at home does not have that luxury.

I’ve also learned even once I complete my degree in the spring as a public relations professional I can never just sit back and stop learning. As long as I desire (or anyone else who desires) to be in this industry, must be open to continuing to learn new ways to communicate and ultimately evaluate how we interact with our intended audiences.

When you stop learning you start deteriorating. Stay strong. Soak up as much knowledge as you can.

Remember your Offline Audience

In communications, especially public relations, we talk a lot about the importance of knowing your target audience. Casting too big of a net can backfire just as easily as if you don’t know what platform to use to reach your intended audience online.

The same goes for reaching people offline as well.

The City of Dallas recently unveiled its “City Hall on the Go,” an internet enabled van, which is scheduled to start hitting city streets soon. This van will travel throughout neighborhoods to give people the ability to access the internet, pay utility bills, request city services – such as pothole repairs or even register their pet.

Some people might scoff and ask why a municipality as large as Dallas has outfitted a van to deliver city services, including internet services. Yet remember, there are seasoned people who grew up well before the digital revolution took over the world. Older folks, like my parents’ generation, feel much more comfortable dealing one-on-one with another human being to pay their bills or have city service needs addressed. What I can understand and learn in five minutes, might take my mom more than two hours and repeated repetition to remember.

Be patient with the older generation. They taught you the basics of living. Like the time your mom taught you to use a spoon. Couresty of CDN webimages.

Be patient with the older generation. They taught you the basics of living. Like the time your mom taught you to use a spoon. Courtesy of CDN Webimages.

A video highlighting the city’s newest outreach arsenal showcases what services people can take care of when the mobile city hall rolls through their neighborhood’s streets.

The city’s Community Engagement Coordinator points out many citizens do not have access to the internet or even own a working computer. Other argue, well that’s what libraries are for. Yes, they have a point. That is part of a library’s duties is to provide computers for public use, but many times librarians are busy with other patrons checking out books, answering reference questions or other administrative functions to help each and every person use the internet.

Other times it’s a logistical nightmare to get downtown to city hall. If you have a disability, have transportation woes or low on money it’s much easier to visit a mobile unit than travel several miles downtown.

More importantly, it makes people feel like their city is really considering their needs. Often times municipal government get a bad reputation of putting elected officials wants’ before the citizens’ needs or always raising taxes. By going out into the community to provide convenient services it shows the taxpayers, the city leaders truly care about serving them.

After all – working in municipal government should not be about power, but rather providing a community service, no matter what level of government you are at.

Computers can do a lot and might make our world smaller in many ways. Remember we are still human. Communicating in person with another individual is still valued and treasured. Human interaction will always be more powerful than just reaching out through the cyberworld.

I would like to see every major city add a “city hall on wheels” to their outreach arsenal.

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Wise PR tactic? Offering VIP editorial meeting

Could an offer to pull back the editorial curtain result in a boon to the Dallas Morning News?

DMN email-blasted its digital newspaper subscribers on Sept. 10 offering people a chance to sit in on an editorial board meeting. (Granted it’s the editorial board meeting for DMN‘s  “The Points” section, the paper’s op-ed section, which runs in the Sunday paper.

This tactic is a very interesting public relations move. For people not in the

DMN offers editorial board mtg

Dallas Morning News email blast offering chance for VIPs to attend editorial board meeting.

communications field, this can appear very intriguing. After all most people wonder how news editors make the decision on what stories get ink and which ones hit the newsroom cutting floor.

Could this result in people feeling more in control of what they see in the paper’s printed and online editions? DMN could also use this as a way to gauge public input and views on a variety of topics as we head into a heated 2016 election season. Young public relations professionals could also use this opportunity to learn more about the inner newspaper workings by making valuable contacts and tips on how to get their clients’ stories published.

In the past few years newspaper readership has steadily declined as the internet and various apps take control vying for the ever decreasing public’s attention span.

The email hit email inboxes just 24 hours before 40 well-known newspaper employees – including some columnists, journalists, editors and photography staff
– left the building for the last time during the latest DMN Media Buyout.

This in itself will require more relationship building for public relations professionals as the new and younger reporters will need to be educated regarding policies the veterans have understood for decades.

PR Pro Community Virtually Mentoring Others

Leaders build other people up. They know the best way to improve the future is to come together to learn from each other.

Communication leaders are no different.

Ketchum official Stephen Waddington created an interactive community in which communication professionals share publicity/media relations, branding, influencer relations and community focused articles through the #PRStack project.

PRStack includes a downloadable Google spreadsheet with more than 250 websites and apps used by communication professionals daily. Some of the websites are well-known names – Facebook, Google and Bitly to name a few. Other websites, such as Hey Press  – a searchable database to locate journalists, or  it’s sister site, JournoRequests  – a site monitoring journalists’ Twitter feeds as they seek sources and Canva – which allows average people to design eye-popping websites.

Since it requires other people to bestow articles to the project, it is an open-source venture.

Nearly 20 SEO, blogging, content creation and public relations professionals submit stories they write to #PRStack.

The e-book can be downloaded or a printed book can be purchased.

A PR No-No

Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk has been a fireball of controversy even before taking office.

This week that fireball grew even bigger. Hawk was last seen around the courthouse in early August and missed several high-profile appearances.

Some people in Dallas politics are questioning whether she is capable to continue in her position after she lied about taking a month off for back surgery in the fall of 2013. Hawks later admitted, only after taking office this past January, she attended a drug treatment facility for prescription drug use.

More than three weeks later – she issued a statement on her Facebook page stating she is battling a serious case of depression. The Family Medical Leave Act allows Hawks to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave I applaud her for seeking treatment for her mental illness.

Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk's statement regarding her absence from her job. (Photo courtesy of Susan Hawk's FB page)

Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk’s statement regarding her absence from her job. (Photo courtesy of Susan Hawk’s FB page)

The way her office handled this incident is listed in any public relations textbook as an example of what NOT to do. Many politicians wrongly see media as the enemy.  That’s their first mistake. As a former reporter, I always sought to tell my audience the truth. The public has a right to know what their elected officials are doing on their behalf. Politicians sometimes forget that Americans tend to be very forgiving. The American public realizes people have illnesses or make mistakes because we know we are infallible ourselves. It’s just as your momma used to tell you – it’s not good to lie, it always catches up with you. Hawks’ sudden leave of absence would have been much better received if she and her office had been up front to acknowledge she needed to take some time to work on herself. Many would have been it as an act of bravery to admit her illness. Admitting her need for treatment would have also humanized her, when so often she’s been seen as cold and distant.

I hope Hawks’ admission regarding her depression will give other people the courage to seek treatment.  Depression affects nearly 16 million of American people annually, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Often times it is taboo to speak about mental illness.  I also hope it will make society understand people from a vast range of ages, genders and occupations struggle with some form of mental illness.