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.

Are We In The Age Of The Death Of Press Releases?

For decades press releases have been a staple in the public relations industry. After all before the advent of the internet and especially social media launched, public relations professionals needed journalists to spread the news about their newest widget or the launch of a fundraiser.  Journalists needed public relations professionals too.  Often times it is a public relations’ professionals’ ideas that fill the newspaper or are included in the next newscast.

Reach Your Audience apps icons on globe. Courtesy of PRNews.org

Reach Your Audience apps icons on globe. Courtesy of PRNews.org

Now some people question the need for press releases.  It’s a reasonable question to ponder. Every business and nonprofit has its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, not to mention a handful of other accounts. More than 70 percent of adults said their cell phones helped them stay better engaged with the world, according to an October 2014 Pew Research study.

Morgan Lyons, an assistant vice-president of communications and community engagement at the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART), recently spoke to our graduate strategic public relations class.   During his guest lecture he informed us that DART used to send out press releases quite frequently and even had a newsroom page on its website accessible to reporters or members of the general public.

Yet, after pulling the newsroom portion of the website down his communications’ team has seen their overall engagement numbers steadily rise over the years. Lyons noted it is best to just use a small number of social media outlets in the most engaging way possible than to manage dozens of accounts, which could result in diminished returns. DART uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a RSS feed. Using these mediums allows DART to tell their own compelling stories, while also directly answering consumers’ concerns through a two-way dialogue.  People want to know corporations, organizations and government entities actually care and will respond to their questions or comments.

The ways a press release is delivered also is changing. Many times now a press release may not actually even be printed out. It zings across time and space digitally to magically appear in the recipient’s email box. Some proposed stories involve sending a quick two- to three-sentence pitch to a prospective media representative. In that instance a full-page press release is not even needed. Reporters appreciate pitches because they are shorter, while boiling directly down to the nuts and bolts of the topic.

Lyons pointed out DART still sends press releases out. The frequency has significantly diminished from the number sent several years ago.  He doesn’t believe press releases are dead. He just believes our communication style is ever evolving.

Just re-evaluate how you communicate. Keep it fresh and evolve.