The Art of Branding

by: Mackenzie Dankle

Jim ThebeauWhat is a brand? On September 25th, Jim Thebeau, CEO of the Iowa Advertising firm HenryRussellBruce, gives an insightful presentation to the Iowa PRSSA chapter members on “The Art of Branding,” and why it is fundamental to both company and personal success.

Thebeau describes a brand as “a gut feeling you have about a product, service, or organization.”  Essentially, a brand represents an image or perception that a person has of a company. Thebeau goes on to say that, most importantly, a brand represents “the level of trust, the emotional connection that a customer has with a product.” What makes consumers choose Nikon over the many other camera brands? Thebeau would say it is the level of trust and familiarity that customers have with Nikon–customers base their decisions on previously established reliability.

So, why is branding important? Thebeau explains that in today’s society, there are “too many choices, too little time.” Consumers need persuasion when it comes to choosing a product, and branding is a strategy that, if successful, will “get more people to buy for more years at a higher price.” Branding helps companies build not only trust, but also profits.

Not only do consumers have a wide range of options to choose from, but “most offerings have similar qualities/features.” Theabeau stresses the most important factor in differentiating your brand–FOCUS. The “Focus Test” involves three questions to consider:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why does it matter?

Companies and professionals who devote themselves to enhancing their brand to serve the customer will ultimately find success.

Thebeau concludes with three steps to successful branding:

  1. Find out what differentiates you
  2. Make that a promise to customers
  3.  Keep that promise!

“We’re hardwired to notice only what’s different,” said Thebeau. What makes you different?

Advertisements

Entertainment PR– Lessons from Hollywood

By: Alyssa Schaefer

I know a lot of young professionals attempting to break into public relations are eager to get their foot into the entertainment industry door.

Who can blame them? We live in a modern society that is fiercely driven by pop culture. The entertainment industry seems to possess a mysterious power to become disturbingly addicting. Consumers can’t get enough, and producers seem to be finding endless dynamics to formulate the next break-out sensation.

However, it is important not to be fooled by the shimmering streets of Hollywood. Behind this industry is a whole army of people working against impossible standards in order to ensure the success of their childhood dreams.

You may find it helpful to get some background knowledge of the industry, and what sort of world you would be dealing with if you choose to pursue a career in entertainment PR, or just the field of entertainment in general.

This article is based on knowledge I’ve gained from my internship this summer at a talent agency – and also knowledge that I’ve picked up through the clients at the agency (since we all know that listening to the customer is the #1 rule these days).

  • It is important to have a good background or understanding of the talent you choose to represent. This could be closely identified with “product knowledge.” Knowledge of the product you’re selling is vital in any business scenario; the same is true in the entertainment industry. One should be able to recognize “good” talent when he or she sees it. The clients you represent want to know that you know what you’re talking about. Experience is key; build trust with your client by showing consideration for the product you both will be selling.
  • A talent agent will spend a good amount of time networking with directors, photographers, choreographers, and other clients. It is absolutely essential that a talent agent possess great communication skills. Both the client and the talent agent will benefit from being extremely organized. The entertainment industry waits for no one. At times, auditions come up with little to no prior indication. It is of utmost importance that the talent agent stays on top of his or her “game” 100 percent of the time.
  • Branding. Classifying one’s projected market is of course imperative in the success of the agency, and therefore the client. “How does this particular client want to be branded in the market he or she is aiming for?” Breakdowns – a list of requirements that casting is looking for – usually specify characteristics they desire in a talent. Knowing which characteristics are associated with each client allows you to pull the most equipped clientele for each specific audition. Every single client is unique, we must remember that we are dealing with the “public”; no one client will ever be the same. By branding your clientele, it not only shows great transparency and personal attention, it ensures a clear and projective path to success.

There are obviously many more qualities vital to success in the industry. These are simply the core values and ideas that I’ve taken away from my summer in the land of the rich and famous. I personally enjoy this fast-paced, “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” environment. However, those who are looking for a nurturing, routine-based work life should perhaps be advised to explore some different options!

Touring Flynn Wright

The public relations team of Flynn Wright shares their knowledge with PRSSA

By: Alexandria Cimino 

Upon entering the office of Flynn Wright in Des Moines, it became quickly apparent how creative and innovative their work environment is.  With a variety of open seating areas in the middle of the room, a ceiling of color-changing LED lights, and a spectacular view of the sculpture garden and downtown scenery across the way, the space looked like more of a contemporary hang-out than an office.

The modern atmosphere of the office made this visit memorable, but the bubbly and dynamic personalities of their public relations team made it unforgettable.  Kiersten Maertens, Andrea Breen, and Mara White began by giving us a tour of the office and explaining a little about what they do.  Flynn Wright integrates public relations, advertising, brand management, and research and thus offers a full-service approach to marketing.  Some of their best-known clients include Mediacom, Dahl’s, and Josephs Jewelers.

Flynn Wright believes that it is crucial to operate in a collaborative work environment, and prides itself on its teamwork.  With open desks and office space, along with areas for spontaneous team meetings, employees are able to easily peak over the shoulders of others and see what they’re working on.  This dynamic work environment allows ideas to be thrown around and creativity to thrive.

Once we finished touring the office, the PR team discussed more about the company’s work and what they have learned throughout their time in the industry.  Research plays a huge role at Flynn Wright, and the team explained to us how crucial strategy and planning are before execution can even be thought of.  The company works with the Des Moines Harvest Research Center, a state-of-the-art research facility that uses well-established quantitative and qualitative methods. White also explained that every person in the company is part of the pieces that build the team.  She said that their company is a true mix of what each person brings to the table, and that individual strengths get noticed and depended on.

The ladies of the PR team gave us some helpful, and humorous, advice for seeking a job or an internship in the future.  White stressed the importance of having a polished resume, and that grammatical errors were never acceptable.  She even graciously offered to look over our resumes and give feedback if we wished.

Before we left, White summed up her take on this line of work in just one sentence.

“It is important to know a little bit about a lot of things, rather than to know a lot about only one thing.”

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.

4 Steps You Can Take in College To Become a PR Professional

By Megan Yoder
megankyoder@gmail.com

College—the days of sleeping-in, pulling “all-nighters” for exams, and cheering on your school teams. While the college years can be some of the best years of your life, they also are the most vital. Before you know it, graduation is around the corner and your career is your main focus. After completing a public relations internship with the Iowa City Community School District, I found that PR is a fast-paced industry with an ever-changing landscape. If you are choosing to do it, here are four steps that you can take to become a PR professional while in college.

Build a Brand
Use your insights or classroom experience in PR to build a brand. Branding helps you to stand out from the competition. Brand yourself so that employers can understand who you are and what type of public relations work you want to pursue. In branding yourself, consistency is key. Make sure that your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blog profile photos are all the same. This way, it is easier for an employer to recognize and remember you when it comes to hiring for a position.

Another way to build your brand is to create a professional website or blog. Your page should include your writing samples or other class projects, your resume, and contact information. This helps employers to have direct access to your work and will show them that you want to be taken seriously in the pursuit of this industry

Dress Professionally, Even to Class
While college students love sweatpants, and they are comfortable, they don’t look professional. Unless you are sleeping, lounging around your apartment or working-out at the gym, sweatpants should be tucked away in your closet.

Choose items such as a blazer and skinny jeans (for women) and a nice button down shirt and khakis (for men).


I know this may sound a bit extreme, but it’s important. Research by Forbes.com, states that people make a first impression within seven seconds! Knowing this, it is vital to dress professionally as you never know what connections you might make with professors, students or university staff. Connections are vital and looking your best will help you to be taken seriously in your pursuit of a job in any industry.

Use Social Media
If you don’t have a Twitter or LinkedIn account, get one ASAP. These social networks may seem like another thing to add to the list along with Facebook, but they can be vital in staying up-to-date on the PR industry and creating professional connections.  Additionally, make sure that you keep these accounts set to “open” instead of “private,” as it can show employers that you know how to use these tools and are up-to-date on topics in your industry.

Have a Professional Email
This may seem like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at how many students’ email addresses are unprofessional. While funlovinggirl123@hotmail.com, was a great account for you back in the junior high days, as a young college professional it’s unacceptable. Whether you use your university email address or one of your own, make sure it clearly states some version of your first and last name (john.smith@gmail.com, is a great example).  Your email address not only makes an impression, but also shows potential PR employers that you want to be taken seriously in the industry. For more email tips, check out the Burns & McDonnell Careers Blog.

For additional resources, check out the article in PR Daily here.

Follow Megan Yoder on Twitter @MeganKYoder

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
Mark-Hollander@uiowa.edu
UI PRSSA Newsletter Writer