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!

Bringing PR Home: Event Promotion on a Local Scale

By Rachel Hewitt

Vice President, University of Iowa PRSSA

Born and raised in small-town Iowa, I’ve seen people get excited for just about anything. Whether it’s an organized bicycle ride around the lake, a municipal band concert in the park, or an antiques show on Main Street, you can bet there will be a crowd and a good-sized article covering the “event” in our local newspaper. When Iowa City became my next educational destination post-boondock living, my eyes opened to a whole different kind of local event promotion. Massive chalk announcements camouflaging the walkways, university-wide mass e-mails, and even downtown posts bursting with neon flyers were novel to me.

I was fortunate enough last summer to land an internship with the Iowa City/Coralville Convention & Visitors Bureau for planning one of the greatest events in Iowa City (fully biased): FRY fest, “A Celebration of All That is Hawkeye.” While I was initially overwhelmed with the 20,000+ members of Hawkeye Nation who would attend this event in September, I came to look forward to my days in the office where I had the chance to come up with new ideas for promoting FRY fest. First step, implement a street team. The closest thing I could think of in this area  was a flash mob I once saw in a movie. For this local event it was appropriate to start small with a public promotional team. Street Team appearances at parades, festivals, and University events initiated a buzz among area natives, and word spread from there.  The right mixture of grassroots and statewide promotion has put our local Hawkeye event on the map for four years in a row.

Most importantly, “FRY fest Baby” – our most popular product of the Street Team, a music video parody to “Call Me Maybe” – was created and went viral. Check it out if you call yourself a true Hawkeye.

Social media, a standard ingredient in any promotion of this scale, was also crucial in order to engage our followers and fans. We got people excited and involved by  using trivia prizes and event-day teasers among regularly scheduled blasts. . In this case, community relations was the key for the Bureau. Community event calendar submissions also allowed for maximum announcement awareness.

No matter how large, glamorous, or otherwise your event is, use these strategies to build your local event’s image and reputation. Take it from the small-town Iowa girl, local efforts and local people are the best foundation for any event to take off.

Follow Rachel on Twitter at @Rachel_Hewitt

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

Readability: Deliver a Clearer Message


Readability Statistics for this Post

By Ricky Brandt

In the public relations industry, we’re always trying to target our message—which necessarily implies that some messages will be written with complex wording, while others will have a very laid back feel.  Sometimes our writing requires the use of sophisticated vocabulary, while others should be as simple as possible.  In 1948, Rudolph Flesch developed the Flesch Reading Ease Scale, which made it possible for writers to take an objective look at their writing and judge its complexity.  The U.S. Navy has been using it since 1975 to deliver clearer written commands.  Further research created the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Scale, which allows writers to see the grade level that corresponds with their Reading Ease score.  Today, these scales have even been integrated into Microsoft Word, which is why I am only focusing on these measures as opposed to other readability tests.  These measurement systems can be invaluable to PR professionals, but, like all things, they have their flaws.


The Math Behind Readability

While we could brainstorm a number of objective measures related to words or sentence structure, when it comes to readability, less is more.  Instead of laboriously calculating a number of statistics, Flesch only measures the average sentence length (ASL) and average number of syllables per word (ASW).  The formula will give you a score from 0 to 100.  One hundred is considered to be very easy, while zero is very complex.  Anything from 60-70 is written in “plain English.”  Most college students are expected to read below 40.


Making Readability Work For You

Measuring readability is not a replacement for abiding to important writing conventions.  Therefore, you should only use it in combination with your other proof reading tactics, for feedback, and to track your progress.  For example, the Flesch scale can be a great way to measure if your writing is getting way over the head of your intended audience, or is coming off more simplistic than you intended.  Imagine writing a business letter that scored 26, or a Facebook description that scored an 83!  No one would take you seriously because your writing would not be appropriate to the medium.  Facebook posts should be easier to understand than business letters, because they are read differently.  Additionally, using readability scores to measure your writing will show your improvement over time and give you the confidence you need in order to write.   

The Pitfalls of Readability


At its core, readability measurements are exactly what they sound like: measures of how readable your content is.  It cannot tell you anything about your content.  For example, the sentence “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” will score the exact same as the sentence “the dog brown lazy jumped fox over the quick“.  Further, you could score an easy 80, which would be understood by an average 11 year-old, while your paper discusses the intricacies of nuclear physics- it just depends on the words you used. In short, readability is not a replacement for proofreading. Like most things in life, the system can be beaten. But despite these shortcomings, readability tests can still improve the effectiveness of your writing. 


 Follow Ricky Brandt on Twitter- @RickBrandt18