10 PR Tips and Tricks from Company Tour 2012

By: Regina Volk

Title Image10) Document Everything
The first thing you should do is add that you went on PRSSA’s company tour to your resume.  It shows that you are taking an initiative in your career and that you care enough about your future to research what you want to do with it!

9) Use the PRSA and PRSSA websites
PRSSA and PRSA have a ton of tips, articles, and job opportunities online. It’s a great resource and it’s at your fingertips. They give you access to this website for a reason, take advantage of it!

8) Stay connected!
You may not always have the answer, but being able to find someone who does will get you far. Staying connected to your contacts will pay off in the real world.  You never know where networking can take you.

7) Prepare for Interviews
When contacting the media, always prepare what you are going to say and know exactly who you need to talk to. Don’t waste time by calling and having them connect you to who you should be talking to – that is your job.

6) Keep it Personal
When you have to interview people for media exposure and you’re forced to do so over the phone, make sure to talk to them as if you truly KNOW them. They need to feel comfortable when you talk to them. Don’t let it get awkward.

5) Have a Goal
Set measureable objectives, it’s the best way to see your results. You’ll never be able to see what you’ve accomplished if you aren’t working towards a specific goal.  You’re company will want to see the return on what they pay you to do.

4) Research, Research, Research!
Research is the foundation of public relations. Every good PR agency uses research-based strategies for their clients. Get familiar with the logistics of surveys and focus groups. It will never be a waste of time.

3) Social Media is not always Key
Don’t use social media for a client if it doesn’t make sense. If your clients’ audience is not a tech savvy audience, then it wouldn’t make sense to use Facebook and Twitter. Always keep the audience in mind.

2) Follow the Swiss Army Knife Rule
In the past, it was enough to find one skill and be the best at it. This isn’t true anymore. Be like a Swiss Army Knife, have multiple skills that can be implemented in all forms of public relations.

1) Content is King
What you put out there matters. This applies to everything from blog writing, website content, to social media. The key to successful social media is strong content. Fine tune your writing skills. Make sure you have writing samples available when you start applying for jobs!

Company Tour 2012

PRSSA Members at Two Rivers MarketingBy: Kristie Chipera

Walking through show rooms, tasting some of the food featured in Better Homes and Gardens, touring agencies and sitting down with advertising and public relations professionals is an experience not granted to many preparing to enter into this industry.  However, the opportunity to do so was granted to the University of Iowa’s PRSSA members and was just one of the many advantages students from the organization were able to experience this past semester.

Sixteen PRSSA members seized the chance on November 9 and traveled to Des Moines to visit five of the top public relations agencies in the area.  These agencies included Innova Ideas and Services, Two Rivers Marketing, Flynn Wright, Hanser and Associates Public Relations, and The Meredith Corporation.

“You are all lucky to visit so many agencies.  I had no clue what an agency was when I started as an intern,” said Jessica Moffitt, account service representative at Two Rivers Marketing.

With bagels in hand, the day started out at Innova Ideas and Services.  The agency, whose portfolio includes the Fight Like a Girl brand, also specializes in crisis communication and issues management.

“Whether you’re in PR or marketing, you can no longer talk at your audience.  You have to talk with them,” said Nicole Torstenson, director of strategic marketing and public relations at Innova Ideas and Services.

PRSSA members saw a presentation that tackled topics such as the ways Innova stays ahead of the game by preparing for a number of possible scenarios that their clients may encounter. Each situation is assigned a detailed strategy outlining the best response for crisis communication. The presentation was followed by a tour of the agency’s modern space before heading off to the next company.

Two Rivers Marketing makes its home in a 32,000 square foot industrial style building, originally constructed in 1935 as a General Motors parts warehouse.  Many of their clients are largely industrial based and unlike many other agencies, Two Rivers Marketing has a space that offers a symbolic connection to their clients, such as John Deere and Vermeer.

Their workspaces group staff by the clients they work with, separating pods by distance, rather than walls.  The employees truly do immerse themselves into their clients’ businesses and their products.  They know the importance of being knowledgeable of their clients and are aware that while maintaining their clients’ social media accounts, they must become experts in the company and its products, as well as the industry.

PRSSA members learned just how dedicated the employees are to their clients, going as far as learning the trades first-hand by taking classes and even learning how to operate their clients’ machinery.

PRSSA stopped next at an agency whose large glass paneling overlooks Des Moines’ Sculpture Park.

Flynn Wright is a small agency.   Its size allows their employees, who all bring something different to the table, to grow individually while relying on each other’s strengths to move the company forward.  With clients, ranging from Dunkin Donuts to Mediacom, one of the agency’s primary objectives is to research the best ways to reach a client’s customers.

After a tour and overview of the modern and colorful agency, students were left with a bit of reassuring advice before heading to the next company.

“Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers,” said Mara White, director of public relations.

Members in the Flynn Wright boardroomFlynn Wright may qualify as a small agency, but across the city, Hanser and Associates took the prize for the smallest company of the day.  The family-run firm may have just six employees, but it is Iowa’s leading public relations firm and has taken the “Best” or “Runner-up” awards as “Best Public Relations Firm” in Central Iowa for 11 years standing.

They handle between six to 12 clients at a time and concentrates largely on healthcare and financial services, although Megabus is one of their largest clients.

Back across town at the last tour of the day, PRSSA members were able to get a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Meredith Corporation.  It is the leading media and marketing company serving American Women whose publications include Ladies’ Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens.

The tour included walking through halls covered with a timeline of the many magazines of Meredith Corporation, stepping into their model kitchen, peering into showrooms, and even sampling food baked and photographed for a magazine spread.  Students were in awe, not only of Meredith’s large building, but the vast number of props and sets within the facility to be used throughout the year for different photo shoots.

The experience was one not to be forgotten.  “Company Tour let me see how the integrated marketing industry truly works. Listening to speakers at chapter meetings can only get you so far. Sometimes, you have to go to where the action is to get the big picture,” said PRSSA member, Regina Volk.  It was a lot to take in for one day, but the madness was absolutely worth it.

The Power of Storytelling

By Rick Brandt, FOCUS Editor
Follow @RickBrandt18 on Twitter

Brian’s daughter, Brianna, was diagnosed with cancer at a young age.  Today, Brianna is cancer free and attending middle school, thanks to research funded by the American Cancer Society.  Her story is one of many providing hope in the struggle against cancer, but soon it will serve to help thousands more.

Later this year, Kathy Holdefer of the American Cancer Society will share Brianna’s story on the counter of every location of a major gas station chain in the Midwest using one of the public relations industry’s most powerful tactics – storytelling.

At a University of Iowa Public Relations Student Society of America meeting on January 30, Holdefer explained the importance of this gas station signing on to the American Cancer Society’s Charity of Choice campaign.

“If they said yes to us, we might be their charity of choice for a whole quarter and they usually have people donate between $115,000 to $180,000 during one of these promotions,” said Holdefer.  “We would like to have that money to continue to do the great work that we can do… we needed to knock their socks off.”

Representatives of the American Cancer Society proposed their storytelling campaign to 15 employees of this gas station chain.  Two variations of donation boxes would be placed in stores, each with a photograph and a quote representing the story of the person on the box.

Each variation of the box corresponds to a different component of the American Cancer Society’s boilerplate: “We save lives and create more birthdays by helping you stay well, helping you get well, finding cures, and by fighting back.”

Brianna’s story is all about finding cures.

While such a campaign can surely tug at the emotions of many potential donors, I asked Holdefer how she hopes to convey the full story of Brian’s daughter in just a few words and a picture.  What I didn’t realize was that telling the whole story was never the goal.

Holdefer explained that by framing the theme of each box around one relatable person, the campaign let people fill in what’s missing with their own experiences.

In other words, it does not matter if the audience knows the specifics of a subject’s story.  What matters is that each box reminds them that the American Cancer Society still has work to be done and these donations can help save countless lives.

Of course, when non-profit organizations such as the American Cancer Society engage in promotional work such as this, the Corporate Charity of Choice campaign does more than just raise money, it advertises their services.

“We consider the stories that will be on the donation buckets as ‘advertisements’ that let people know what we do, and then they can either support us or ask us to support them,” Holdefer said.

When customers see the story, they also see the call to action encouraging the audience to call their National Cancer Information Center or visit their website to make donations or get information.

The donation box for Steve, who received a routine colonoscopy, best exemplifies the effects that storytelling can have on a group of people.

When the American Cancer Society’s message influenced Steve to go through with his colonoscopy, doctors removed three polyps and a section of his colon to protect him from cancer.  Three of his friends followed his example and were also saved from cancer’s grasp.

“Here’s a story about a guy who hears a message from the American Cancer Society, gets his screening, and shares his story,” said Holdefer. “Look at all the lives saved, look at all the cancers that were avoided.”

And ultimately, that’s the goal of each campaign Holdefer works on ­­ ­– to save lives.

If You Build It

By: Regina Volk

Tadros at his office in Chicago

“If you don’t love what you’re doing, you are wasting your time.” This was the message of founder and CEO Phillip Tadros of DoeJo Design and Consulting Firm to all PRSSA members at their chapter meeting on October 24, 2012.

Tadros is a successful entrepreneur, CEO, and recipient of the 2012 Moxie award for best digital agency in the Chicago area. DoeJo does anything from brand development to sales and marketing to social media campaigns to video and photography and much more for all their clients.

While in college, Tadros realized that a degree wouldn’t get him where he wanted in life, so at age 19 he dropped out. He knew his vision was to open a bar or club, but being under the age of  21 made that impossible. Instead, Tadros opened up a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. Though the business didn’t ever turn much of a profit, he said he had a blast running it and was eventually able to sell it for a profit.

Tadros really pushed the idea to PRSSA members that opening up your own PR agency isn’t only possible, but should be aimed for as an ultimate goal. He asked PRSSA members to raise their hands if they wanted to open their own firm someday and only one person raised her hand.

“I had never really thought about opening up my own public relations agency someday until he made it sound like that should be our ultimate goal. He made it sound so easy. It may be something I’ll consider in the future,” senior Sarah Larson said.

After opening a music venue, Tadros started working in web design—and it began from there. Tadros has never had to advertise his business; it has always gained clients by word of mouth. DoeJo has had many successful clients such as New World Ventures, Groupon, Sandbox Agencies, Umbra and many more. They have also had 12 bumps on Adult Swim Network; all clients who went and found his business.

They never had to hire anybody special for media or public relations because they found that the trick is to document everything that they did, and the work will speak for itself. “We are really good at media and public relations. It isn’t something we just learned how to do, it was how we documented things and how to maintain relationships we have built,” said Tadros.

He also voiced his opinion on all sorts of clients that well have to work with throughout our  professional lives . He spoke on the importance of client-business relationships.  He spoke of having clients that you either mesh with or you don’t. He said that you can’t force a relationship, and sometimes as a business owner, he has had to ‘fire’ a client. This is something that business owners should never worry about doing.  Tadros explained that some things just don’t work and sometimes when you let something go, something even better will come along. It’s all about balancing what works and what doesn’t.

As CEO of Chicago’s digital media agency of the year, what kind of advice did Phillip Tadros leave us with?

“Figure out where you want to work. Got it? Go there and get a job. It’s as simple as that.”

Lava Row Revamps Social Media

Adam Gromotka,
PRSSA Focus Writer

Lava Row is a company that shares digital and social media expertise with corporations and small businesses looking to expand their reach through today’s technology. The Des Moines based firm offers consulting, training, and education, as well as strategy planning to its clients. At the PRSSA chapter meeting on September 26, founder of Lava Row, Nathan T. Wright, stopped by to share two examples of how his company used (and is using) social media and outside-the-box thinking to promote Veridian Credit Union.

Before founding Lava Row, Wright became a global phenomenon as the man who sold his soul on eBay. The glass jar,originally a prank, drew attention from news sources around the world before selling for $46. More importantly, as Wright explained, it opened his eyes to the power of social technology and the internet to spread messages, even as early as 2002.

The first case study Wright discussed was a campaign for a new Veridian Credit Union branch in Corralville. Veridian sought to enter the marketplace with a bang.

“They wanted to enter with a big splash, and there were two strong competitors there with big footprints, and who had a lot of loyalty there as well,” said Wright. The plan was to use social media to leverage Veridian above its competition. The concept began with the introduction of the “Surprise Squad,” in Corralville. Anonymity was the name of the game, as a group of disguised Veridian branch members went around Corralville, doing good deeds for what seemed to be no reason.

“They would pay for your gas, they would sort of ‘ambush you,’ right? And do something nice for you,” said Wright. Another company had tried this, but according to Wright, did not use technology to properly document its efforts. Every Surprise Squad deed had a media component – being YouTube videos, tweets, Facebook posts or blogging, to prolong the reach of each deed. Public awareness was also made with leave-behind pamphlets and direct mailing as well.

“People just naturally come in if they’ve been surprised, and they tag themselves in their photos. That really extends the reach…the deed took place, but then it had this afterlife online,” said Wright. Within a month, the “Surprise Squad” Facebook page jumped to 3,000 fans. Wright made it clear that multi-platform campaigns really are where companies are going.

The second effort analyzed again involves Veridian Credit Union. This new campaign invokes participation from University of Northern Iowa students in a challenge based “quest” leading up to a grand prize. This campaign makes use of media outlets like Twitter and YouTube, as well as real-world touch points-requiring students to stop in to the UNI Veridian branch. The quest culminates in a massive real-life scavenger hunt around the time of the UNI homecoming game in late October.

Nathan finished his presentation by reminding students of the importance of social media, and how creative uses of such technology are a necessity to drive a business forward. It seems that the internet has the power to offer a creative mind any business venture it can imagine.

Sculpt and de Novo Marketing Agencies Provide Career Insight

At a recent UI PRSSA meeting on September 12, 2012, the organization welcomed speakers from two companies in the Iowa City area.  The first two guest speakers of the night, Micah Kulish and Josh Krakauer, were representatives from Sculpt Social Media Marketing Agency (wearesculpt.com), based in Iowa City.

The company focuses on managing social media accounts for clients across popular platforms in an attempt to build and enhance local branding. Sculpt gave some great information to chapter members, and also advertised internships within their agency. Members interested in the opportunity were encouraged to express their desire in a tweet using the hashtag ‘#workforsculpt’.

As a final note, the speakers conveyed the importance of responding to customers who interact with businesses online – for instance, if a consumer posts about a particular business on sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Yelp, there must be a representative available to adequately address these questions and concerns.

Following Sculpt was Heather Smith Friedman, owner of de Novo Alternative Marketing Agency (thinkdenovo.com), a guerrilla marketing firm out of Cedar Rapids. Friedman touched on countless topics, beginning with job search techniques for students. Friedman explained how she almost never posts jobs online, because often times many of her respondents are either unqualified or are not genuinely interested in the opportunity.

Friedman expressed that the most appealing job applicants first thoroughly research a company, and then directly contact it, often times referring to a specific role of aspect of the company to which they believe they can contribute to.

Friedman also stressed the importance of having specific career goals as well as defining the exact expertise of one’s skills. To sum up her advice, Friedman explained to the group that they should brand themselves as possible assets to a company. In doing so, they must always be able to sufficiently fill this sentence when talking to possible future employers: “I am the                for Type of Company.” Using this formula when networking or applying for jobs will help applicants effectively tailor their approach for each company.

Since an interview usually follows a job application, Friedman also shared her best advice with the chapter for presenting themselves well in such a setting. She stated that, “It is as much of an interview for you as it is for the company.” In saying this, Friedman illustrated the importance of finding a company that suits an applicant’s desires and expectations.

Friedman also recommended always sending thank-you notes to any company that members interview with, as it leaves potential employers with a great last impression.

Students know that education is valuable, but after hearing what each of the night’s presenters had to say, one thing is clear – internships are undoubtedly the best way to enhance a student’s knowledge and experience in the field of public relations.

Mark Hollander
UI PRSSA Newsletter Writer

Polar Plunge Photos

Inspire PR members pose for a photo before plunging at Iowa City's Polar Plunge.

Members of Inspire PR and the PRSSA Executive Board participated in Iowa City Polar Plunge on Sat., March 24. Warm weather came to Iowa City early this year, and Saturday was no exception. New plungers and returning plungers enjoyed the experience and quick dip into the surprisingly refreshing Coralville lake to raise money for Iowa Special Olympics!

Inspire PR and members of Exec pose for a photo after plunging!

Nathan Wright of Lava Row Uncovers Web 3.0 — Big Data

By Ricky Brandt, PRSSA member

When Nathan T. Wright graduated from Iowa State in 1999, social media was merely an idea bouncing around the dark crevasses of the Internet waiting to take shape.  Curious about what the Internet could offer him, he decided to put his soul up for sale on Ebay.  Nathan’s quick joke sold for $46, and within 48 hours he was basking in his 15 minutes of national fame.

Today, five years after founding Lava Row, a social consulting firm Wright founded from his couch, major corporations come to him for training on how to incorporate themselves into the social conversation.

“Web 1.0 was all about e-commerce and retail… then Web 2.0 came along, which was all about social networks, and that disrupted almost everything,” Wright explained at the February 22 PRSSA meeting.  “But the big question is what will Web 3.0 be like?”

Wright believes that Web 3.0 will be all about “Big Data.”  With Internet speeds at an all-time high, and the high amount of traffic created by individuals across the world, we are generating masses of data that marketing firms will sell their soul for.

Think Web 3.0 is waiting far in the future?  Think again.  Facebook’s new Timeline will let you browse your entire online and offline life with just a few clicks.  This innovative take on a social profile is essentially a huge data mine of everything you think, do, and (most importantly) like that Facebook uses to target ads back at you.

Wright also pointed to a service that is already taking full advantage of our data from across the web.  Time Hop allows users to receive a daily email of what was going on within all of their social networks exactly one year ago.  With the exponential growth of technology in our world, should we really be surprised by this quick advancement of the Internet?

A graph created by Baekdal.com shows us that not only does new media move in and out of style at quicker and quicker rates, but it is moving towards more data intensive and individualized mediums.

For Lava Row, the constantly evolving environment of the Internet means only one thing: Big Business.  As companies come to understand their potential role in the social sphere, they require the training and advice Lava Row can offer them.

When asked how they learn to adapt to new networks that could benefit their clients Wright explained that it all stems from personal use, “We like to study things first before we actually recommend it.”

For example, Lava Row will not start training companies on how to use the Internet’s latest craze, Pinterest, until this summer.  This gives them the greatest chance of success online.

The Internet has already taken humanity into a golden era of communication.  As the web transitions into an unparalleled data intensive entity, we can expect to see Lava Row leading the pack of social media consulting firms trying to give their clients the greatest advantage possible.

As a man who has quite literally given his soul to the Internet, Wright clearly understands the power of the Internet.  Today, power is found in how we use social networking sites.  Tomorrow, power will be found within the Internet —Big Data.

Follow Nathan T. Wright on Twitter @nathantwright

Follow Ricky Brandt on Twitter @RickBrandt18

Hop on over to Red Frog Events

By Taylor Frable, PRSSA Finance Director

On Feb. 22, our PRSSA Chapter had the pleasure of having Red Frog Events come talk to our members about their office, internships and the events they put on each year. 

Red Frog may be one of the most unique and fun places to work in Chicago.  Their office, called Camp Red Frog, is themed like a summer camp with s’mores snacks by the entrance, a picnic table styled meeting room and one of the only fire-inspected and legal indoor tree houses in Chicago. It’s no wonder the events they host each year stick with the fun theme.

Red Frog has three main events they host each year: Great Urban Race, Warrior Dash and Beach Dash.  Great Urban Race is how Red Frog Events made a name for itself.  Now with 21 locations nation wide, Great Urban Race lets teams of two explore cities around the country and solve wacky clues.  Warrior Dash is the only international race Red Frog Events hosts with locations across the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.  Warrior Dash is for the ultimate thrill seeker.  Beach Dash has four locations across the nation.  Participants complete a series of obstacles across the sandy shores.

When applying for the Red Frog internship, make sure to think outside the box and get creative with resumes and cover letters, because Red Frog Events receives hundreds of applications a week.  If luckily chosen to become a “tadpole” (intern) get excited to work hard, enjoy intense foosball matches in the office and help put on fun races across the country and worldwide.

Follow Taylor on Twitter: @taylorfrable