Creating winning PR Award Entries

Creating winning PR Award Entries.

The deadline to enter the WMPRSA Chapter’s annual award competition is in less than three weeks. Today I’m leading a little seminar on “how to” create award entries for the PRoof Awards.  Below is what I am sharing with attendees; really it’s appropriate for most PR award competitions, including those hosted by national PRSA.

Good PR entries start with good PR practices throughout the year.  Those practices need to be documented, so that you have material for the entry. The assembled entry is a PR communication vehicle itself and needs every bit of attention that you would put into campaigns for your clients.  It needs to tell a story and explain succinctly, to complete strangers, the problem to be resolved, the research conducted to fully understand and analyze the situation, your strategic approach, your tactical execution, and your results. Pretty simple huh?

FIVE REASONS TO ENTER (AND WIN) PROOF AWARDS

  1. Validation (affirmation that you did it right)
  2. Justification (supporting the case for approval of future work)
  3. Recognition (for you and your client)
  4. Promotion (of you, your agency, your department)
  5. And, the #1 reason to pursue PRoof Awards not just in February but all year long: Professional Excellence. Executing PR projects and campaigns with an eye toward entering and winning PRoof Awards will make your work continuously improve, because you’re taking the right steps to Research, Plan, Execute (sometimes referred to as Implement) and Evaluate – the proven formula for successful practice of Public Relations.

AWARD ENTRIES IS A YEAR-ROUND PROCESS

While it is important to create a good entry to win an award, it is more important to do work that is award-worthy and well-documented. If you plan to enter the PRoof Awards – or any awards competition – you should make it a practice to keep complete records that document the life of your project or campaign.  Because you know in advance that you will be required to provide a write-up that describes the Research, Planning, Execution, and Evaluation, you can create file folders (online or those actual cardboard thingees) that organize what you will need MONTHS before you actually need to construct your entry.   In the middle of your campaign, if you notice that certain folders remain empty, it should serve as a prompt to either A) do more work in that area or, if the work has been done, B) save your work in the folders for award entry use.

IT’S ABOUT GOOD STORYTELLING

Most of us can feel in our gut when we’ve done something really special. Not all of us can tell that story to strangers a thousand miles away in a manner that will earn Silver, Gold or Best of Show.  As professional storytellers we need to know how to educate and influence our “publics” to help our clients and employers achieve their objectives. We need to approach our award entries in the same manner:  we are telling the story about our project or campaign in a way that will earn the support (and positive reception) of PRoof Judges.  And PRoof provides the titles for the four chapters of your story: Research, Planning, Execution and Evaluation.

The Introduction

There usually is a back story to a project or campaign, which typically includes an organization’s “problem” requiring a “PR solution.”  For instance, a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company might be launching a new product for which it needs to build a market.  Or, a non-profit is launching an event as its new primary fund-raiser and needs to get the word out and deliver an experience that generates the expected results.  The “problem” stories help lay out your organization’s situation so that the judges can review the quality of the next four “chapters” of your award entry story in context.

Chapter 1 – Research

This section demonstrates to the judges that you obtained all the data and info you possibly could to provide an accurate analysis of the “problem” situation. PR professionals won’t know where to begin if they don’t have a clear understanding of the problem they are attempting to resolve.

In the best of all worlds, you will conduct formal primary research to help you better understand your target public’s awareness and understanding, giving you a very precise baseline to work with. (Formal is research that results in scientifically representative samples; primary indicates research conducted by/for your organization).  Informal and secondary research are completely satisfactory and will help demonstrate that you understand all angles of the problem you are attempting to resolve.

Include as backup documentation: audience survey results ? anecdotal evidence ? internal data ? third-party surveys ? industry best practices ? interview results ?brochures or information related to products/programs

Chapter 2 – Planning

In the intro you shared the “problem” and in Chapter 1 you elaborated on the situation based on research conducted.  In this chapter you *finally* share the “PR Solution” that was proposed.  A motto used by the Better Business Bureau is “Say what you do, and do what you say.”  In the Planning section, the PR professional “Says what they will do.” See Chapter 3 for the second part.

To the judges, this section demonstrates the good thinking that goes into a proposed solution.  For the purposes of the award entry, you need to share the strategy, key tactical components, targeted audience(s), and budget.  Above all, you need to share your clearly stated, measurable objective.  The name of these awards, after all, is PRoof. It’s hard to prove PR’s effectiveness without determining your starting point and providing a “desired future state.”

Include as backup documentation: plans with proposed budget and objectives

Chapter 3 – Execution

In this chapter you share what actually happened.  This is pure journalism in short form. You said what you would do in Chapter 2.  Now tell us what you actually did. You need to share how much time, money and effort was invested in the campaign (important to ascertain ROI).  This chapter also is the place to describe unforeseen challenges that were faced and how they were dealt with.

Include as backup documentation: work product ? news releases ? articles ? photos of event(s) ? print pieces ? videos ? supporting advertisements

Chapter 4 – Evaluation

This is where you PRove your work was successful.  This is not a beauty contest; PR is about saying what you will do and then doing what you said. So, how much did you move the needle; did you achieve/exceed the stated objective?  Were there additional benefits to the organization that weren’t even planned?  Were there failures that were helpful as “lessons learned” for the organization going forward?

This is the final chapter of your story, and we know there’s a happy ending or else you would not be creating an award entry.  Tell us why this is a winning entry, based on your PRoof.

Include as backup documentation: describe method(s) of evaluation ? share results of follow-up research ? number of placements ? impact on organization ? plans to continue ? the degree to which you met and/or exceeded stated objectives

HOT Comms at PSU. Not!

Penn State University President Graham Spanier doubled down on PSU’s reputation gamble — and lost.

I’ve written before about the necessity for organizations to practice Honest, Open and Transparent Communications (HOT Comms).  It comes to mind again as we witness another allegation of leaders concealing the truth related to the child-abuse charges against former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Graham Spanier, former PSU president
Graham Spanier, former PSU president

In this case, former Penn State president Graham Spanier has been charged with concealing child abuse.  I’m sure Spanier was thinking that keeping the public and his own board of trustees in the dark about allegations against Sandusky a decade ago would preserve his university’s reputation (and ability to capture donor dollars, ticket sales and student enrollment). In fact, it did the opposite. By hiding facts from the light of day, Spanier threw his university’s reputation onto the craps table alongside Sandusky’s.

The public would have understood and forgiven PSU had the truth come out because of the university’s actions, not despite them. There are legions of PSU faithful who continue to support the university even now; many more would be on the administration’s side had it acted with integrity and practiced HOT Comms.

With HOT Comms, it is important to remember that people see through b.s., so obfuscating with unclear language and “spin” is never a good option when communicating about an issue. Attempting to conceal it altogether isn’t a good idea, either, because eventually all “secrets” become known in this age of hyper-connectivity. Sharing information — good or bad — in a consistent, straightforward manner builds trust on the part of an organization’s key audiences.

Deliberately delaying the sharing of a “truth” or even an “allegation” basically tells people, when they find out (and they will) that you are dishonest and will place others at potential risk for monetary gain. Spanier’s concern for PSU’s reputation was about donor dollars, football ticket sales and enrollment numbers, plain and simple. Negative news might impact any of those categories by as little as 5%, costing PSU millions of dollars. But only for the short-term.

Penn State failed on many levels. It concealed damaging information and practiced numerous delaying strategies.  The world would have forgiven the university quickly had it acted promptly and honestly when issues first came to light. By doubling down and throwing their hat in with Sandusky, Spanier and other PSU administrators took a big gamble and lost.

Career Advice for PR Students

Advice for PR students as they work toward launching careers. Good for all students, actually.

1) Write. Your PR career is going to involve lots of writing, so you had better get used to it. Yes, you will need to know how to write a good press release, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to PR writing. You’ll need to write up reports, white papers and memos. You will need to communicate frequently with many different people via email (see below). You will need to prepare backgrounders, talking points and scripts for executives.  You will need to write good web copy. You likely will be involved in social media writing, which often can be the toughest assignment of all – getting a succinct, relevant message out in just 140 characters isn’t easy!
2) Work (often for free). If you expect to get a job right out of college so you can pay your loans, you will need to do a couple of internships before graduation. The job market has never been more competitive, so getting a head start has never been more necessary. Getting a paid internship (yes, they do exist) that will actually some income while you’re a senior probably will require you to have completed one or two lesser internships first. That means you need to get started on internships the summer following your sophomore year. It doesn’t have to be much. It might be as simple as providing some volunteer PR services for a non-profit in your hometown. Maybe it’s writing up and executing a PR plan for a small business (you must know somebody who owns their own business … if not, your parents will).
3) Socialize. You are about to enter a profession where you are expected to “relate” to key “publics” and where you will be expected to advocate for a client or employer. Get a head start by relating to some key publics on behalf of your most important client – you! If you want a job after college, you should start reaching out and creating relationships with potential employers. Start following professionals on Twitter. Read blogs written by professionals and offer comments. Attend meetings held by your local PRSA or IABC chapter and make it a goal to meet and talk to two professionals. After you have been at it awhile, you might set a new goal to talk to four professionals you’ve met at previous meetings.
4) Grow up (aka “Be professional”).  How you dress, how you communicate, how you present yourself to the world are all important as you embark on your career path. Your social media accounts reflect who you are, so be sure that prospective employers will like what they see!
5) Be ethical. First of all, you should be a member of PRSSA as a student and PRSA as a PR professional. It provides ongoing networking and development opportunities.  It also provides you the resources to better understand what is and what is not ethical in the professional practice of public relations.  You WILL be placed in situations during your career where clients or employers ask you to do something unethical. Don’t do it. You can always get a new job, but it’s very difficult to repair a bad reputation.
6) Be authentic.  Be the real you and don’t fake it. Over time, if you’re just faking it, you won’t be happy and it will show in your work.  Also, if the “real you” is mean and conniving, I’d rather you get that out there right away so you get fired before you work your way into positions of authority.  But for most of you, the real you isn’t bad, it’s just different … and it’s our differences that make us more marketable and help us land in the place we were meant to be.
7) Put in the extra effort. People that count the minutes before they will bolt for the door because of a 9-to-5 attitude will be treated as a commodity resource rather than a strategic resource. Always demonstrate to your bosses that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done right … even if that means you miss happy  hour. In the long run, it will pay off.
8) Achieve balance.  Putting in the extra effort at your job can be good, but making your whole life about work is not so great. Without life balance, you will eventually burn out. Work may provide some happy moments and boost your self-esteem, but it also will let you down and make you feel hollow. Make sure there’s something more important in your life than your job (faith, family, friends, a cause) and devote as much attention to that as you do for clients who won’t be around forever.
9) Be positive. Approach every day with a positive, can-do attitude and don’t get sucked into the office politics and griping with co-workers by the coffee machine. You don’t have to be where you are … you can always find another place to work. So devote your efforts to understanding others and doing all you can to make where you’re at the best place it can be.
10) Love.  Do what you love, and love what you do. If you find yourself detesting the kinds of things you’re required to do day after day, you’re in the wrong career (or with the wrong employer). Better to change tracks early while you still can!

1. Write. Your PR career is going to involve lots of writing, so you had better get used to it. Yes, you will need to know how to write a good press release, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to PR writing. You’ll need to write up reports, white papers and memos. You will need to communicate frequently with many different people via email (see below). You will need to prepare backgrounders, talking points and scripts for executives.  You will need to write good web copy. You likely will be involved in social media writing, which often can be the toughest assignment of all – getting a succinct, relevant message out in just 140 characters isn’t easy!

2. Work (often for free). If you expect to get a job right out of college so you can pay your loans, you will need to do a couple of internships before graduation. The job market has never been more competitive, so getting a head start has never been more necessary. Getting a paid internship (yes, they do exist) that will actually some income while you’re a senior probably will require you to have completed one or two lesser internships first. That means you need to get started on internships the summer following your sophomore year. It doesn’t have to be much. It might be as simple as providing some volunteer PR services for a non-profit in your hometown. Maybe it’s writing up and executing a PR plan for a small business (you must know somebody who owns their own business … if not, your parents will).

3. Socialize. You are about to enter a profession where you are expected to “relate” to key “publics” and where you will be expected to advocate for a client or employer. Get a head start by relating to some key publics on behalf of your most important client – you! If you want a job after college, you should start reaching out and creating relationships with potential employers. Start following professionals on Twitter. Read blogs written by professionals and offer comments. Attend meetings held by your local PRSA or IABC chapter and make it a goal to meet and talk to two professionals. After you have been at it awhile, you might set a new goal to talk to four professionals you’ve met at previous meetings.

4. Grow up (aka “Be professional”).  How you dress, how you communicate, how you present yourself to the world are all important as you embark on your career path. Your social media accounts reflect who you are, so be sure that prospective employers will like what they see!

5. Be ethical. First of all, you should be a member of PRSSA as a student and PRSA as a PR professional. It provides ongoing networking and development opportunities.  It also provides you the resources to better understand what is and what is not ethical in the professional practice of public relations.  You WILL be placed in situations during your career where clients or employers ask you to do something unethical. Don’t do it. You can always get a new job, but it’s very difficult to repair a bad reputation.

6. Be authentic.  Be the real you and don’t fake it. Over time, if you’re just faking it, you won’t be happy and it will show in your work.  Also, if the “real you” is mean and conniving, I’d rather you get that out there right away so you get fired before you work your way into positions of authority.  But for most of you, the real you isn’t bad, it’s just different … and it’s our differences that make us more marketable and help us land in the place we were meant to be.

7. Put in the extra effort. People that count the minutes before they will bolt for the door because of a 9-to-5 attitude will be treated as a commodity resource rather than a strategic resource. Always demonstrate to your bosses that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done right … even if that means you miss happy  hour. In the long run, it will pay off.

8. Achieve balance.  Putting in the extra effort at your job can be good, but making your whole life about work is not so great. Without life balance, you will eventually burn out. Work may provide some happy moments and boost your self-esteem, but it also will let you down and make you feel hollow. Make sure there’s something more important in your life than your job (faith, family, friends, a cause) and devote as much attention to that as you do for clients who won’t be around forever.

9. Be positive. Approach every day with a positive, can-do attitude and don’t get sucked into the office politics and griping with co-workers by the coffee machine. You don’t have to be where you are … you can always find another place to work. So devote your efforts to understanding others and doing all you can to make where you’re at the best place it can be.

10. Love.  Do what you love, and love what you do. If you find yourself detesting the kinds of things you’re required to do day after day, you’re in the wrong career (or with the wrong employer). Better to change tracks early while you still can!

Empathize for PR Success

Writing’s important to PR, but empathy comes first

A couple times each semester I have the opportunity to talk to students.  At Davenport, GVSU, Ferris, Calvin … typically in PR or marketing classes or to PRSSA groups.  When I speak with PR students I am usually asked the all-important question: “What is the most important skill for the PR professional?”

Early on in my career I would not have hesitated and simply blurted out “writing.”  I still believe solid writing is a non-negotiable skill all PR pros must have.  This especially holds true for those who focus on media relations, trying to share their organization’s important messages through the filter of the news media. Writers at traditional newspapers and magazines can be quite scornful of “flacks” who can’t write up to their level.  Even for new media proponents, good writing is necessary to build and hold an audience. Plus, good bloggers have to overcome writer’s block and post often or risk losing their following.

Today, however, I believe there’s a skill that’s even more important than writing to the successful PR pro — the ability to empathize. Let’s face it, in PR we have many “publics” we need to understand and address.  It’s easy when you’re talking to audiences who think and act just like you do. Unfortunately, 99.9 percent of all PR pros must at times talk to people who aren’t exactly like them.  Which means you need to be able to empathize.

It requires you to understand your audience and know their wants and needs.  It requires you to do the research and maybe conduct some interviews.  The better you understand your audience, the better you will be able to communicate with them. Makes sense, right?

So, if there’s an important initiative at Davenport University that we need to share with others, I have to understand the needs of our key audiences, including our students, our faculty and staff, our alumni, our donors, community leaders and legislators, prospective students and their influencers (i.e., parents and counselors), our board of trustees and … well, I’m sure there are others!  Each have a different perspective on whatever our news item might be, which means we have to tweak our message by audience. One message does not work for all audiences.

So, it starts with empathy.  But it still ends up with writing.  And along the way, you had better be good at research and planning. Oh, and if you have solid design sensibilities and are handy with a camera,  you’re golden!

A Year in the Life

In a few weeks I start the next chapter of my career at Davenport University as Executive Director of Communications.

The day after Labor Day I begin the next chapter in my professional career when I report to Davenport University as the newly appointed Executive Director of Communications. I’m excited to be joining a university that is “on the grow.” With a brand new campus near the junction of M-6 and M-37 just south of Gerald R. Ford International Airport, there’s a new excitement surrounding Davenport and the programs it operates statewide.

The position will provide a wonderful opportunity to contribute strategically to the university, and I look forward to sharing more about what I’ll be working on after I start!  Meanwhile, I’m working on finishing up assignments for some of my Luymes PR LLC clients, including LEAD Marketing Agency, Brann’s Steakhouse & Sports Grille, the Alliance For Health, IMN Inc., RapidGrowthMedia.com, and more. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great companies this past year.  From Adoption Associates to Zondervan, West Michigan is blessed with quality organizations.

My Davenport start date is just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of my last day at Amway Corp. It’s been a great year learning what it means to be an independent consultant, to be an entrepreneur, to service clients even as you seek new ones. This past year was marked by the generosity of so many others who gave of their time and counsel to me, referring business, and offering unlimited encouragement.  While starting a new business is always difficult and typically not so profitable in the beginning, I am happy that I was able to come out on the plus side and have such a rich experience as well!

This story, I am certain, is to be continued!

The Ad Men of Mad Men Turn to PR?

AMC’s Mad Men returns to television tomorrow night. Looks like the ad guys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce need some PR help!

No, I haven’t seen an advance script of tomorrow night’s season premiere of Mad Men, but I’m going to make some educated prognostications based on the brief description of the episode and its title, “Public Relations.”

Back in the ’60s, PR was much less “developed” as a profession. Today, nearly 50 years later, Public Relations is still less defined than I’d like, based on the fact that its practitioners come from a myriad of backgrounds and are asked by their organizations to practice in a myriad of manners. Typically, however, communicating with public audiences with a heavy emphasis on earned media are part of the profession. Also, there is that tendency to turn to PR when a crisis strikes (as opposed to using good PR practices to all along to earn trust and goodwill).

AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.
AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.

SO, how are Don Draper and cohorts going to use Public Relations? Sounds like the agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in some trouble after a Draper gaffe and, just guessing, they need some PR help.  I’m hoping the agency actually hires a new PR person (need some new characters!) and they start to demonstrate integrated marketing campaigns. That would be novel (and way ahead of the times)! 

I’m guessing, however, that the firm has a “public relations crisis” that affects client confidence and Don and crew fix it themselves. There’s nothing those ad guys can’t do, right?

Burmese Tiger Pit Diggers & PR Pros

Companies are hiring social media managers. I hope they’re more like public relations professionals and less like Burmese tiger pit diggers.

According to a BusinessWeek article, companies are scrambling to hire “social media managers.”  Moreover, they’re doing so with little understanding of what that means, and creating new job titles to describe these new positions.

I’d like to contend, again, that these organizations probably already have social media managers on staff. They’re called “public relations professionals.”  I do understand that social media isn’t just another media channel.  I also understand that you can’t take PR people who have primarily done media relations all their life and magically make them social media savvy.  But I don’t think we need to create a whole new silo within organizations; we need to effectively use the disciplines we have in place!  Marketers can be engaged in the conversation online about their brands. And if they want to create new conversations with key publics (i.e., social media users) about their products or their businesses, they should turn to their PR staff because that’s what they already do!

When I left my last job and started positioning myself for clients, I was told I should market myself as “social media.” To me, that’s like marketing myself as “television” or “talking.” Social media is one way to talk to your key audiences, but not the only way (and not always the right way). That said, I believe it’s vital for PR practitioners to know how to create social media programs to leverage their brands’ assets. PR is about influencing and the game of influence is definitely gaining a social media flavor.

I’ve been involved in creating social media programs for a billion-dollar sales company and for smaller organizations. It requires 1) approval from top execs and legal, with understandings in place about what will and will not be discussed, 2) a commitment to be honest, open and transparent in all communications (HOT comms) with your audiences, and 3) resources equipped, capable, and empowered to communicate on behalf of the organization/brand. 

This is not a time to place the brand conversation in the tweeting hands of an intern. They can help, for sure, but a community isn’t going to magically develop around an anemic effort by the company.  Consumers want to talk to representatives who are truly knowledgeable AND who also have the ability to carry messages back to decision-makers within the organization.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  People won’t sign up just to hear your messages; they also want to be heard

PR is the discipline trained and paid to engage publics in a dialog. Let them do it!  That dialog leads to support for your organization/brand.  Some execs want the social media “managers” to go out and create Burmese tiger pits, where unsuspecting passersby fall into a trap and are then expected to make a purchase.  Creating tweet “teasers” and Facebook contests might generate traffic and maybe a very small percentage will make a purchase, thereby justifying the expense.  There’s room for this kind of activity, but that’s not community. Once the giveaways go away, so do the followers. Community involves creating something better, together.

SO, I hope the “social media managers” being hired turn out to be PR people with a different title rather than Burmese tiger pit diggers. Otherwise companies are just wasting their money (again).

The PR of Evangelism

The public relations aspects of evangelism are really about understanding others’ needs.

Yesterday I sat down at a coffee shop on Grand Rapids’ west side (The Bitter End) to kill a few hours while Conner took his class in Mackinaw Harvest’s sound studios. A copy of USA Today was lying on a table next to me, so I checked it out and found an interesting Forum piece by Tom Krattenmaker titled “How to sell Christianity? Ask an atheist.”  Krattenmaker writes about “recovering evangelist” Jim Henderson, who learned from atheists all of the common practices of evangelicals that turn non-Christians off.

I don’t think that Henderson is less of an evangelical today. He just approaches evangelism differently.  He allows *who* he his and *how* he is in relationship to *you* to be the message.  He doesn’t come at you with a sales pitch. He comes to you with his hands open, palms up, being who he is and demonstrating a true interest in you, REGARDLESS of your response to him.  It doesn’t matter if you become a Christian or not, he will still be interested in you because, after all, that’s what God has called for Christians to do. Love others as you love yourself.

After intentionally talking with atheists, Henderson discovered all the things that Christians do that turn people off.  Things like “I’m right, you’re wrong” and referring to non-believers as “lost.”  I also loved Krattenmaker’s assertion that “if you want to have influence … you have to be willing to be influenced. … If not, would anyone want a conversation with you?”  It’s true in religion, politics, and just about every sphere of life: Don’t discount my thoughts, my ideas, my experience. I want to hear about yours, but you need to listen to mine, too.  That’s really important in Social Media, by the way. It’s OK to want your ideas to be heard, but to get there you’re going to need to listen and respond to the ideas and expriences of others, too.

Good public relations involves research and understanding your target audience, so it’s not much of a surprise to me that evangelicals, when considering a PR approach, need to do a better job of understanding their audiences and refining messages and approach. Too often organizations turn off their target audiences because their messages sounds too much like a sales job. This is true for Christians on a “mission” to convert non-believers and it’s true for sales companies looking to convert the general public into buying consumers.

I think the best sales approaches are the ones that don’t have to try to hard to get people to nod their assent.  Instead, people are attracted to the organization or the product because it solves a need in their life. The person or program representing that entity has made themselves available and open to the target audience. In the process, you might tell your story or you might create a lasting impression, but you do not hit them over the head with it in a way that makes their eyes glaze over.

The most effective examples of evangelization to me are those who strive to “be” the message. Here I am, an (oh so) imperfect man, saved by the grace of God alone, because he loves me and all of mankind. I fail Him all the time in my response to circumstances around me and the choices I make, but He does not fail me.  This gives me peace.  Now, tell me about you. What do you want to talk about?  I want to know you better and find out how I can help you! No strings attached.

Mother Teresa was a good example. I have no doubt that her mission also was to expand God’s kingdom and to witness unto others. But her approach was to minister to the needs of those in Calcutta. Of course, the needs there were so extreme and obvious, it was perhaps a more obvious approach than here in North America, where the needs of an otherwise healthy, well-off non-believer may lie below the surface.

Opinions about what public relations is will vary depending on who you talk to. For some, it’s the function that tries to get media mentions for brands or organizations. For others, its the party-planning function. Some think it’s speechwriting. Others think it’s “spinning” a bad situation good…convincing you the “rightness” of my point of view.  For me, what PR does is in the name. PR relates to publics. That means we know the publics and they know us. We can empathize with those publics and understand their needs. We have an open, two-way communication based on mutual respect. I want to introduce myself, get to know you, understand how I can help you, and let  you know when I need your help. 

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?

PR and Social Media

PR is strategy; Social Media is tactic. To me, Social Media is best managed within the organization by PR.

I’ve had many conversations about PR and its use of social media.  It’s been discussed in various chats on Twitter as well as at conferences.  On a few occasions now I’ve heard people talk about the PR work that they do managing a client’s social media account. I do believe wholeheartedly that managing a social media account for an organization should be under the direction of the public relations discipline. 

The social media engagement, however, should not constitute an organization’s complete PR program.  Perhaps there are a few organizations out there that can get away with that, but to create a mutually beneficial experience for an organization and its target publics, more than tweeting will be necessary. Meanwhile, people who haven’t been trained in public relations and really don’t fully comprehend what PR is shouldn’t claim to fulfill an organization’s PR needs simply because they track friends and fans and followers in Facebook and Twitter.

Some of this was part of what Jenny Luth and I talked about at the Grand Rapids Social Media (GRSM) lunch event yesterday. A good group joined us for the excellent dialog about roles and responsibilities in social media and what constitutes effective PR for an organization.

Clients

I’ve been too busy to blog. But that’s not a good excuse. So, here you go!

One of the pieces of advice I always give to clients is that if they start a blog, they regularly need to attend to it, keeping content fresh.  There are a few reasons for that. For starters, it keeps people coming back to hear what you have to say next. It also provides greater SEO value — the Google spiders like to see new content!  If your page gets stale, the Google believes it is less relevant for your key words.

So, it is with great remorse that I find myself violating one of my own rules!  There are, however, good reasons for my lapse!  Chief amongst them: clients.

In the past month I’ve landed as clients a leading Congressional candidate (Steve Heacock), a leading Christian publisher (Zondervan), a new furniture company to be launched (announcement coming soon!) and, very likely, a leading health policy non-profit in West Michigan (also to be announced, if it happens!).  I’ve still been writing about The Rapid for RapidGrowthMedia.com, and writing profiles for Grand Rapids Magazine. There are a couple other proposals out there that look promising, too!

At the same time, I know that with each of my clients there are end goals in sight, even if they are a few months off, so I cannot stop reaching out to potential new clients.  As President of the West Michigan chapter of PRSA, I have a number of built-in networking opportunities per month.  I also have been quite active in going to events sponsored by organizations like the Econ Club of GR, aimWest, RapidGrowthMedia, and more.  It is my sincerest hope that anybody looking for quality representation by an independent PR practitioner will consider me. If they’re not considering me because they don’t know about me, I need to network even harder!

So, because of all that, I’ve been a little lax on the blogging front.  But, here I am.  I promise to do better!  Meanwhile, are you looking for PR help?  If not me, call me anyway because I also know lots of other great pros who can help you out!