PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Final Presentation from NMDL

I had my last New Media Drivers License class a couple of weeks ago, and our final project was a presentation on what we learned. I wasn’t a stranger to new media in the beginning, but I still learned so much. I think the most important thing I learned was, while I have some pretty solid knowledge of today’s media, tomorrow will be different. Keeping on top of things is important, but as the brilliant Shannon Paul once told me, the new wave of PR professionals will need to walk on the fence between new practices and old techniques.

I tagged all of my adventures under “New Media Drivers License” with this blog, and you can see more about the class here. Because I already some sort of preexisting knowledge about new media, my presentation was a little different than most of my classmates. I focused on these areas:

  • Your online brand
  • Ethics in social media
  • The power of an offline network
  • Continuing your education

Check out the presentation below or on my Slideshare profile.

I’m hoping to help out Derek Mehraban, the instructor, teach the course next semester, so I’m looking for some feedback from all of you. What would you like to see in a new media class? Does your school (or association) have some sort of indstruction on new media? Any best practices you’d like to share?

Thanks for the help!

Filed under: New Media Drivers License, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , , ,

State of the News Media 2009 and PR

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Last week, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism published its annual “State of the News Media” report. The title gives a good description of what the report is about, but this year’s report is particularly interesting. I’ll be honest, I work at a newspaper and times really are tough. Walking in downtown East Lansing you’ll find shops that have been there for years are being shut down, and I know this is the case across the country. This is the sixth report, but according to the introduction, it is the “bleakest.” Consider these facts:

  • Newspaper ad revenues have fallen 23 percent over the past year
  • One out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone
  • Local television revenues fell 7 percent in an election year
  • The number of Americans going online for news jumped 19 percent during the past two years
  • Traffic online for the top 50 news outlets increased 28 percent

So, what do the statistics mean? It means a lot, but here are the six major trends described in the report:

  1. How to finance the newspaper industry is becoming more and more important, yet the solutions are not coming to fruition. The report suggests that the industry is not looking in the right places. In a recent AdAge editorial, the author said media executives are holding on to the idea that the news is a thing – but it really isn’t.
  2. The power is shifting from media institutions to the individual journalist – AKA the mommy blogger next door.
  3. News organizations are not focusing on their audience, they are focused on pushing content to the rest of the Web. Between Twitter, Facebook and other outlets, the media think it’s best to push their content in as many medium as possible. Is it working? I don’t think so.
  4. More media outlets are sharing because they have to – financially, at least. Will there be multiple television outlets in Lansing? Will there be two newspapers in Detroit? How many radio stations are left in Mid-Michigan? These are all things to consider.
  5. Political journalism is on the rise. The 2008 Presidential Election was a time for the media to cover everything related to the election – and beyond. I think we’re still in the honeymoon phase of the election in which everything the new president does is historic. The report discusses how America has become fascinated with “minute-by-minute” updates with politics – cabinet appointments, new bills and updates to the economic situation.
  6. The press was less of an “enterprising investigator” and more reactive and passive. Of course, the Freep reporting on Kwame Kilpatrick is an exception to that, but there is less and less investigative journalism going on. This is mainly because reporters don’t have time – after all, deadline was yesterday.

The full report can be viewed here.

There’s no way to put it softly – traditional journalism is not doing so well. I’m not going to write about the state of the media industry right now, but I think it’s an especially important time for public relations practitioners. Students are taught the media is one of the most important parts of the job, but because this industry is shrinking, PR practitioners need to get creative and innovative. Online media rooms are one alternative to lack of traditional media coverage, and David Meerman Scott suggests that PR people should recognize all kinds of people, not just the media, visit an online media room.

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Our PRSSA Faculty Advisor, Russ White (the man behind the MSUPRSSA YouTube channel) and a University Relations employee, says people are coming to them for stories about MSU – he doesn’t have to pitch. Check out the MSU news site here; I also took a screenshot. It has stories, people, multimedia, podcasts and subscription capabilities. Their news site is just like a newspaper’s Web site. I don’t want to speak for them, but I think this is directly responsible for the shrinking media. MSU will always have a story to tell, no matter if the media will be there to cover it. These online media rooms make the PR job a lot easier if you take out the pitching component.

Because public relations practitioners have an increasing level of power when it comes to shaping messages, we need to remember to be honest and transparent. While I might be biased to PRSA, I like the WOMMA code of ethics, too. No matter what code of ethics you adhere to, PR practitioners must recognize they are content providers and need to tread cautiously when creating messages.

What do you think about the state of the media? How is it affecting PR? If this a good or bad thing?

Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , ,

Recap of NMDL

If you haven’t heard me brag about my New Media Drivers License class yet, here’s a post that will do a lot of bragging. It’s been a great nine weeks and I’ve learned so much about new media and how to use it. Each topic, whether it was Google AdWords or search engine optimization, took a lot more than reading the assignment description. I had to research and practice these new online tools. I learned a lot, but I also realized how much more I have to learn. I plan to continue my new media education through this blog.

Overall, I learned that the traditional public relations principles are the same online, too. This goes along with the new age of public relations – our generation needs to balance their knowledge of tradition methods with new skills. You can’t just know Facebook and studying cases from 1984 isn’t completely helpful either. The industry is changing quickly and by staying on the forefront, you’re offering high value to your clients or company.

Here is what I plan to present to my class when we meet again on March 21. I’m going to primarily focus on strategy vs. tactics. I blogged about this earlier and it still keeps me thinking. I’ll then talk about four main areas that I think are so key:

  • Creating a personal brand online. What are the rules of showing your personality? What social networks should you be on? How do you stay consistent?
  • Ethics in social media. What are the lines ethics in new media? How does ghostwriting play in social media? How does ethics play into your brand?
  • The power of an offline network. We’re good at making friends online, but how do you transfer that to an offline network?
  • Continuing your education. Why continue your blog? What should you be doing now?

We’re also reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. It’s pretty intriguing and I’m hoping to refine my presentation skills before the final class. Whether you’re in advertising, PR, marketing or other fields, you’re probably going to be doing some presenting now and then. Check it out – it’s a pretty quick read.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be preparing a slide show and will definitely be posting it. Stay tuned. Until then, please feel free to comment on what you think I should include in my presentation.

Filed under: New Media Drivers License, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , ,

Learning from the Critics

I don’t remember exactly how I came across this Web site, but I did last night. It’s called PR Watch and it is run by the Center for Media and Democracy. Here’s how they describe their organization:

“The nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media ‘of, by and for the people.'”

Ouch.

Then there’s this video featuring John Stauber, co-founder of PR Watch, who makes the argument that PR = Propaganda. Watch it here.

Double ouch.

I respectfully disagree for plenty of reasons, but that’s not why I’m writing this post (I’ll be writing posts on this later). After searching through the site and reading what they have to say on some different PR companies and campaigns, it’s easy to throw it away as garbage because we’re on the other end of the spectrum. I’ll argue that it’s important to listen to what they have to say in order to improve the industry.

So, as PR practitioners and students, we can take this in one of two ways:

  1. Do any combination of: whining, blaming, disagreeing, fighting, etc.
  2. Respect their opinions and move forward.

I’m thinking the second choice is a little better. The Ogilvy PR Digital Influence Blog has a post on how to deal with negative detractors in the social media sphere, and it’s pretty applicable to this situation. Here are their steps with my additions:

  1. Always say thank you. I like that they point out what they think is bad PR and bad ethics. It’s great that the industry is held accountable to PRSA’s Code of Ethics.
  2. Address the issue. Let’s acknowledge the faults and see what we can do to make it better in the future.
  3. Correct any misinformation. Opening channels of discussion to see what’s wrong and talk it out. I like to think that #journchat on Twitter is a 3-hour Dr. Phil episode that occurs each Monday evening where PR practioners and journalists talk about improving relations. I also think PRSA (and PRSSA) and SPJ should work together on this, too, as each both have ethical codes.
  4. Be transparent and honest. Even more important is regulating and enforcing these ethical standards.
  5. Opportunity is knocking on the door – it’s the future of the industry. Educating young PR professionals and PRSSA members on past mistakes can help make a better future. Teach us to take the right path for our careers.

I’ve found that you can learn the most from your critics. I’ve also learned that you can never learn enough. I’ll be perusing PR Watch and use it a guideline of things not to do in my career. Whether it’s accurate or not isn’t the point.

What do you think of PR Watch? Do you think it’s accurate? Can we learn from our critics? These are questions you should answer – here and in your career.

Filed under: Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Public Relations in 2009

I’ve seen a lot of posts going around about social media in 2009, specifically ones from Brian Solis, Shannon Paul and Todd Defren. Check them out – those are some pretty solid posts. So in anticipation of the new year, I wanted to write about what I think is going on in public relations in 2009 – challenges, obstacles, what’s working and what needs to change.

From my perspective, here are some of the buzzwords within the industry for 2009:

Diversity of the industry

I see diversity as more than solely differences in gender, race and ethnicity. To me, diversity is just different kinds of people. In public (or people) relations, it’s important to keep in mind that when you are reacing out to a large audience, chances are that audience will be very diverse. Learning how to reach out to different kinds of people is key to successful public relations outreach.

Another point of interest – I was listening to a recent PRSA diversity podcast and heard a great discussion on the future of diversity in public relations. I discovered that 90 percent of PRSSA members are female – HOLY COW. The industry is definitely dominated by females, but it seems as though this gender gap will only widen. While I have my own theories why this is happening (hint: some of my friends call me a party planner.. yuck), it’s something that the industry needs to pay attention to. Also,

You can check out the PRSA Diversity Today podcasts here. They are full of great information.

New standards in PR education

Because public relations is a constantly changing industry, PR education needs to be constantly changing, too. I’m lucky to have a solid curriculum at MSU – we have a strong balance of PR academics and PR professionals teaching courses that are generally relevant and topical.

I think combining theory with practical experience is the name of the game for successful PR education. Last semester, I took a journalism class on writing for the media. It was a really great class because touched on some history and communication models in addition to working on a press kit for a Lansing-based non-profit. It gave the students the opportunity to build their portfolio right in class.

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Is PR Social Media?

I’ll be honest – I don’t have an answer for you. And I don’t think that the answer is black or white. But I will say that knowledge and understanding of social media is becoming more and more important for the public relations student. It’s also becoming expected, too. One thing that us students sometimes forget is that we really do need to know the basics of PR, too. Solid writing skills, understanding business principles and office etiquette will still trump having 10,000 followers on Twitter – at least in 2009. We’ll see what 2010 has to offer.

Ethics for you and me

I think 2008 was a year of dishonesty and unethical behavior. Whether it’s the Madoff scandal or the Blagojevich drama or the Wall Street CEOs and their ridiculous bonuses; it hasn’t been a pretty year. I’m hopeful that corporations have learned to be honest, ethical and transparent – 2009 will be the year to show it. Now more then ever, public relations professionals are relied upon to build that trust. Mike Cherenson from PRSA talks about how important this will be for the professional in a PR Tactics article.

Advocacy for itself

Public relations professional often get tied up with client work that the industry often forgets to advocate for itself. We need to hold our colleagues and clients accountable to high ethical standards and make sure that the rest of the world knows we’re doing it.

The new wave of professionals

My fellow public relations students are tenacious, curious and dedicated. But as I previously mentioned, we need to remember the PR fundamentals, too. The future of the public relations industry, as I see it, balances old habits with new techniques. We can’t get too caught up in the blogosphere – we still have to go to class, right?

Call me an optimist, but I’m really excited for what 2009 has to offer the PR industry and PR professionals. While there are some challenges ahead, there is much to accomplish, too.

What else am I missing? Where do you see public relations going in 2009? Are you as optimistic as I am?

Photo by Rasso on Flickr.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advertising Faux Pas

I got an e-mail recently from a student organization list-serv from an alum of the organization. It was a friendly “hello, check out what I’m up to” kind of e-mail, but I also had some problems with it. As a disclosure, I won’t mention any specifics on names, agencies, companies, etc.

The context of the e-mail was a call to action for two things. By the way, the product featured in this e-mail was not targeted to students. The agency had build a site for the client and the message encouraged all readers to check out the site. OK, besides the shameless self-promotion, this wasn’t that big of a deal. I almost deleted it until I read the next part; it encouraged readers to order information about the product. This was the deal breaker for me. But still, I went on. At the end of the paragraph talking about how if we sign up, we will get 2 or 3 follow up e-mail (pretty vague, huh?), the last line was: “I get bonus points…”

Sending out an e-mail to a student pre-professional association when it has nothing to do with their education is one thing, but when you stress the importance of clicking on the Web site and ordering information seemingly to only bring back the statistics to your client… well, that’s another story. Furthermore, trying to make people forward your message on to others in hopes of making it a viral campaign will not work.

The big thing in advertising is proving ROI to your clients. Sometimes, you will have companies that know and understand the power of successful branding that doesn’t necessarily bring in huge ROI. And sometimes, you will have companies that are number crunchers and try to put a value on the different kinds of branding.

Working in advertising sales for The State News, I can relate to this situation. My co-worker and fellow blogger Katy Homanick talked about this with me. Just like the rest of the newspaper industry, classified sales have been hurt my such sites as Craig’s List, ULoop and even Facebook. When I sell a classified ad, I always call back at the end of the insertions to see how everything went. I ask what kind of response they got, and sometimes, I get the inevitable “no one called.” I believe in my product, so I will always recommend changing up the ad, throwing in some bolded words or any other feature we offer. Even so, some ads just don’t work out.

However, I will never, never encourage friends or colleagues to call on an ad just to make sure my client gets “results” and is thus happy with my work.

It seems as though that’s what happened today.

For me, what it comes down to is client service. I might be at the beginning of my career, but I have become familiar with the importance of being honest. If you brought these stats to your client showing an inflated number of visitors to the site, is that ethical? I don’t think so, and I would never do that.

What do you think? Was this unethical? What other strategies or tactics could this agency have used to encourage visits to the site?

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Ghostwriting Executive Blogs

Following the social media workshop our PRSSA Chapter hosted last week, we briefly talked about the voice behind corporate blogs. The question then became who really is writing the CEO’s blog? Is it really the head of the company? Or is the blog ghostwritten?

I’ll tell you what it shouldn’t be.

Social media provides the unique opportunity for a company to connect with its consumers directly. Whether you’re using Facebook to connect with fans, conversing with consumers on Twitter or even hosting a photo submission contest on Flickr, you are doing what social media is meant for: having a conversation.

Even better is that some companies have taken social media to the next level are are now responding to those who aren’t fans of their company. For example, if you complain about Comcast on Twitter, chances are their customer service department will be contacting you to see how they can help.

When a company starts utilizing a corporate blog, the idea is that it makes the normally exclusive executives accessible for everyone. Not just the media, not just other executives. You and I. Between media interviews and carefully constructed statements, people often don’t have the opportunity to see executives of a big corporation on a personal level. Social media is that opportunity.

Treating social media as traditional media is ineffective. Reading a blog prepped by a communications staff is the same thing as reading an article in the newspaper that starts, “according to a statement by Chief Executive Officer…” And people know. Because people are visiting a social platform on their own time and their own accord, the chances are they aren’t looking to be lectured. They are looking to take part in the conversation.

Here’s two examples of great corporate blogs:

  • Although it’s written from a PR guy, Richard Edelaman – 6 a.m. is a fantastic example of an executive blog. It’s honest, straight to the point and itsn’t trying to directly sell his product.
  • Another idea for a blog comes from Google. While it’s cool to see what the executive leadership is up to, as a consumer, I also think it’s cool to hear from the employees. A corporation is made up of a lot of different people doing a lot of different things, and The Official Google Blog captures this well. Even cooler is that a friend of a friend was one of the guest posts. What are the chances?

I see social media as the opportunity for you to connect with others. As an executive in the company, I think it’s best to either write the blog yourself or don’t at all. What’s the point of hearing more of what you get in traditional media on social media platforms?

My question is simple: is it ethical for a blog to be when in fact it is run by the public relations staff? Is it even worth it to run a ghostwritten blog? Should there be some kind of disclosure stating that this blog is run by a communications staff?

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

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