Updates from the North

It’s December 22 and I can’t sleep. And it’s snowing. And I’m in Canada.

The past month and a half has been a whirlwind of events and I haven’t had a chance to keep my blog updated.  In the beginning of November, I was called into our EVP’s office and asked to work on an account that would require me to travel to Canada every other week until the spring. Of course I was excited about the account and about the travel, but nervous because of three things: 1. I didn’t have a passport. 2. I’d never traveled by myself before. 3. I’d never been out of the country.

So within a week, I’d expedited a passport, bought warm clothes (with the help of my sister and mom) and hopped my little rear on a jet headed to Toronto.  I quickly had to introduce Atlanta, warm-blooded Madison to Canadian, freezing cold Madison.  The account that I’m working on is one that really interests me and traveling sure breaks up the work month.  This week is my third week here and I’ve had positive impressions of Canada so far.

I’ve been given the chance to work with a team from all over the US and Canada and have learned so much by seeing and adapting to work styles and personalities.  A few of my colleagues work in Edelman’s Chicago office, and I’ll be heading there soon after the New Year. I am SO excited to go to Chicago.

This weekend JD and I went and bought Hunter boots to make sure that my tootsies are warm because I’ll be walking through the snow to get to the office. My cousin lives in Chicago and I hope to see her while I’m there.

I head home on Thursday and am flying in to see my family in Greenville. I’m so excited to bake, shop and play tons of games with my family. I’m not going to promise that I’ll update this blog any more often than usual, but I’m going to try.

Merry Christmas to you all. 🙂

Public Relations Practitioner’s Role in Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the way that organizations operate when they take into consideration their publics with the practices that they implement.  A public relations practitioner’s role in corporate social responsibility is to make sure that the practices of the organization are well-communicated between the organization and its publics.

It is also a practitioner’s job to make sure that the communication between and organization and its publics is one that makes sense.  For instance, part of  Ben and Jerry’s mission statement  is “To make, distribute and sell the finest quality all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.”   It makes sense that they focus on the environment because that is where their products come from.  They also donate money to children’s organizations… what child DOESN’T love ice cream!?  It would not make sense if Ben and Jerry’s focused its practices on something that was not relatable to their corporation. 

Another role that public relations practitioners in CSR play is making sure that publics not directly related to the company, take an interest in the company.  For example, if Ben and Jerry’s donates money to a children’s charity, they should also donate free coupons for the children to have a scoop of ice cream.  That way, parents who usually take their children to Bruster’s or Baskin Robbins may be more inclined to buy from Ben and Jerry’s. 

Ben & Jerry's Mission Statement

Dickey’s Barbeque-Pulling at My Heartstrings

I recently came upon an article on Wyff4.com that reported a heartwarming story of a soldier and his BBQ cravings.  A Spartanburg, S.C., resident, 22-year-old Sergeant Danny Sheppard, was shipped to Iraq in July.  While in Iraq, he called his mother and told her that he was craving barbeque from his favorite restaurant, Dickey’s Barbeque Pit.  His mother, Kim, quickly drove to Dickey’s to order a sandwich for her son to send to him overseas.  When she got there, she asked the owner, Bill Friend, to help think of ways to ship the BBQ sandwich.  Instead, Bill asked how many soldiers were in Danny’s platoon.  After Kim said that she didn’t have the money to pay for sandwiches for all 170 members of the platoon, Bill said that it was on the house.  Bill and his co-workers cooked enough briskets and meat to feed all of the members of Danny’s platoon in Iraq and sent it as a “way of saying thanks”.

Reading and watching the broadcast of this story brought tears to my eyes.  I appreciate everything that our soldiers are doing overseas and I continue to think of them and thank them every night.  The measures that Dickey’s restaurant took to bring smiles to the faces of the men and women who are fighting for our freedom is unbelievable.  

I know that Bill Friend probably did this from the goodness of his heart, but it also is great PR for his restaurant.  Dickey’s was given free positive press and positive publicity.  Through the interview with the soldier’s mom, viewers found out that it was specially requested and was his FAVORITE barbeque spot.  This testimony to the deliciousness of the barbeque may convince others to try their sandwiches.  Also, the other soldiers in Danny’s platoon may have never had Dickey’s BBQ before.  This free sandwich may make them love it as much as Danny.  This act of kindness could possibly bring in another 169 dedicated customers when they return from their tours. 

Soldiers, thank you for everything that you do.  God Bless America!

Public Relations and Viral Videos

Communicating with an organization’s publics has grown from the traditional way of shaking hands with a smile to a more savvy way with cyber-relations.  While shaking hands and meeting people is still a great way to make connections, it has become easier to make connections over the Internet.  Chapter 11 of our book mentions viral videos and how they are quickly becoming part of public relations.  A specific viral video creator, Jessica Rose, was featured in our book as someone who filled others in on her life via YouTube.  Here is an example of one of her videos which reached over 6 million views!  Jessica (Bree) talks about her 1st kiss.  This video is informative, funny, and cute because it shows the inside scoop of a young girl.  It’s amazing to me how a 16-year-old girl interested and drew so many people into her life by simply talking about everyday issues. 

Viral videos can also be used to help in an organization’s public relations efforts.  For example, last year in Stakeholder Communication, we studied the YouTube video below from Verizon Wireless.  While most everyone knows that Verizon Wireless’ main theme is that the network is with you wherever you go, I doubt anyone took that meaning literally.  This video took the meaning of the “most reliable network” to another level.  Although it does not have as many views as Jessica Rose’s, this video has been viewed by over 150,000 YouTubers.  This video could have made an impression on those viewers to switch to the Verizon Wireless network.  And the best part about this viral video… it was FREE to publish.  Take a look:

Planning in Public Relations

In order to reach goals that are planned for organizations by their public relations department or agency, the PRo’s must have some sort of plan.  Three different types of plans are an ad hoc plan (a plan for a temporary situation), a standing plan (a long-term plan used to help strengthen an organization’s relationships), a contingency plan (a plan used for “what if” scenarios). 

On Entrepreneur.com, a PR writer, Rachel Meranus wrote about the correct ways to develop a PR plan.  She explained that a general PR plan rule is to “consider a year ahead, plan six months ahead, and expect to revise after three months.”  I think the key point is that you  never know when something is going to change or go awry.  One point of Rachel’s article that I thought was interesting was her view on crisis planning.  She said that in order for a PR plan to be complete, a PRo should look at the different possibilities and scenarios that could go wrong.  I think this would be considered a type of contingency plan because it is a “what if” type of plan.

I think it’s interesting to learn the different types of plans and their technical terms.  While interning at Jeff Dezen Public Relations, I was able to sit in on their staff meetings and in a few of their meetings with one specific client.  I enjoyed hearing the plans and ideas that they developed for new products and services for that client.  I would consider those types of plans ad hoc plans because they were temporary and had an end date in sight.

Public Relations Current Jobs

In my public relations class, we were given an assignment to look up the job descriptions for some current PR available jobs.  I chose to look through the job search on the PRSA site first.  I found a job as a Public Relations Director at FOLIOfn which required that the applicant have strong teamwork skills, a track record in dealing with the media, blogger outreach, and the ability to work with senior management.  If hired, the director would write press releases, initiate media relations and social media outreach, and other efforts to raise awareness of FOLIOfn.

I also found a position as the Manager of Public Relations for Staples.  The qualities of the applicant is required to have high energy, excited about working on creative PR programs, and confident with counseling executive team members.  The applicant must have good oral and written skills and experience with dealing with crisis management and communicaiton.  The applicant’s main job description included developing PR initiatives, managing the media and provide PR couseling to the business team.

 The other open positions that I found had similar job duties as well as certain charactersitics that applicants had to have.  They all had to be organized, team working skills, and a bachelors degree in communicaitons.  I thought it was interesting that although the job descriptions differed, they were all very much alike.  I’m sure with each job, there are specific duties that are learned after an applicant is chosen, but those specifics were not listed.

Public Relations and Marketing- IMC

After reading chapter 13, I better understood the major differences between public relations and marketing. It was helpful because currently, I work as the marketing director at Toussaint Law Firm and sometimes I feel as though the things I do could be put into a public relations category.  While public relations, advertising, and marketing all follow the same process of researching, planning, communication, and evaluation, they are focused on different things.  The specific way that our book describes the differences in public relations is that it is focused on many publics instead of just on consumers.  I found this series of photos on The Ads of the World that shows the difference between marketing, PR and advertising.  While this series of photos comically describes differences, it is very precise in its quick descriptions.

While marketing consists of the four P’s (product, price, place, and promotion), public relations focuses on the promotion.  Through IMC (integrated marketing communications)  strategies, companies develop plans to market different products in different ways.  IMC differs from mass marketing in that it focuses on individual consumers, practitioners use databases to target consumers, practitioners send out well-focused messages, use consumer-preferred media to send their marketing messages, and favor interactive media. 

After reading this chapter, I’ve realized that I do a little bit of public relations as well as marketing work at TLF.  Maybe I should change my title. 🙂