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!

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.

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

By Megan Yoder

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

The Hunger Games: “The Whole World Will Be Watching”

By: Kristina Gonzalez

Yes, the whole world was watching. The Hunger Games’ opening weekend broke box office records, totaling to 155 million dollars. Internationally, it made a whopping 59.3 million dollars.

The Hunger Games ranked as the third best opening weekend, after The Dark Knight, and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2. It had the fifth best opening day in history, making 68 million dollars. And of course, beating out the Twilight series completely (though there’s hope for Breaking Dawn Part 2).

While the Hunger Games book series captivated readers, the record-breaking premiere is no coincidence. Lions Gate, who acquired the movie rights in 2009, spent 45 million dollars on marketing.

The strategy was simple: engage the fans. Lions Gate used creative methods to generate a following, including:

Tumblr— Lions Gate created a tumblr, capitolcouture.pn, featuring The Capitol of Panem. The blog uses interactive and enticing articles on “citizens they follow” and different fashion designers who are quirky enough to almost replicate the Capitol fashions.

Interactive websites—Lions Gate used The Official Government of Panem, to put fans into the storyline. The site allows fans to register and become an official citizen of Panem.

Public Appearances—The leading actors and actresses traveled around the country for Q&A to help market the movie.

Sneak previews—With the trilogy featuring a strong female lead, they cleverly partnered with Pretty Little Liars, a TV show with a largely female audience, ages 12 to 34. Pretty Little Liars had their big finale, which revealed a major plot twist. During the finale, the Hunger Games was featured in every commercial break, and a trailer debuted during the episode.

Lions Gate also used social networks, such as Twitter and YouTube. The Hunger Games Twitter account has almost 400,000 followers.

Traditional public relations tactics were also used. Lions Gate passed out 80,000 posters, and the movies’ actors and actresses were featured in 50 magazines, billboards, and advertisements.

The mixture of “old school” marketing tactics with a creative, social media approach worked.  Americans everywhere are saying the movies’ catchphrase: “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Selling Summer Movies

By Sarah Larson

Superheroes and irreverent comedies seem to be dominating the multiplex this summer. Every weekend a major film is released with hopes of box office success. As a cinema major interested in public relations, I wondered what these films do to stand out against the competition. Here is what I found…

Films are marketed by what are known as distribution companies. These companies distribute the film to theaters and also dispense marketing materials to advertise the film.

A big part of a firm’s marketing occurs when the company identifies the genre. This genre will determine how the film is packaged when appealing to various audiences. You wouldn’t want to go see The Expendables 2 expecting a romantic comedy and likewise this would not be a profitable tool for the company. This is not to say that some films don’t play on this notion of genre for comedic gains. The restricted trailer for Ted, an upcoming comedy about a foul-mouthed teddy bear, began by making fun of romantic comedies.

In a season full of sequels and long running franchises, it can be hard to make a new film stand out. The Avengers owes a lot of its success to the origin story films of some of its main characters. Likewise The Dark Knight Rises is a highly anticipated film and the end to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. So how does a movie stand out against all these superhero juggernauts?

Great trailers. Trailers are the reasons people decide to go to a particular film over another. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had an amazing trailer that Hollywood buzzed about and likewise grossed close to $233 million worldwide according to boxofficemojo.com.

Here are two films I’m looking forward to seeing this summer because of stand out trailers. Note the different devices companies use to differentiate between genres. For example, the science fiction film Prometheus uses dramatic music and quick cuts of alien planets to draw viewers while the That’s My Boy comedy shows quick clips of partying and funny scenes.

As you can see, when trying to sell a product that costs millions to make, every detail of its marketing plan is going to be thought out. This is the case for films in an extremely high stakes industry.