I’ve been itching for some professional development in my career as a public relations professional. After all, living out in rural Gates, Ore. doesn’t exactly put me in the epicenter of progress and advancement (although I love the peaceful way of life!). Having graduated from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications with a Public Relations emphasis nearly 12 years ago, I knew that my time was due for a career jump-start—one that would propel me to the next level of knowledge and increase my capacity as a PR consultant.
It all came together in this wonderful convergence of events. In December of 2012, I met with the GROW Economic Development Corporation’s Executive Director Allison McKenzie for a private business consultation. The topic of the day was my “one year business plan,” focusing on what I wanted to achieve for Word’s Out PR in 2013. Allison’s question was, “At this time next year, when you look back at what you’ve accomplished throughout the year, what would make you feel like it has been successful?” Top of the list: Obtain my APR.
Is APR an unknown term to you? We’re not talking about Annual Percentage Rate here! This is a PR site and if you’re in the public relations profession, you know that in our world, APR is an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and is the only professional designation in the industry to certify that a PR professional has a certain body of knowledge and understanding of the PR Code of Ethics. Now at this point, beyond this description, I didn’t know a whole lot about what the APR designation was, other than that I wanted it and had every intention to get it.
After having met with my favorite business coach Allison, within days I met with a long-time friend Bonnie Stephenson-Milletto to discuss a publicity campaign for her hot-off-the-press book Dedicated to the Cup: Nine Ways to Reinvent a Life. In this book, Bonnie talks about “filling your inner cup,” a term that immediately hit home for me during my first APR study group on April 6, 2013. I was ecstatic when I realized that something about this professional development experience truly fills my cup. Or, as Allison would tell me, “Do what makes you jump out of bed in the morning.” Well, as crazy as this sounds—this APR idea is making me not only jump out of bed, but bust into Gangnam Style moves on the dance floor (cousins Lauren, Leslie, Kelly and Brina can attest for my bust-a-move skills).
Inspired by my business coaching session with Allison, I soon thereafter renewed my membership in the national and local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The topic of the New Year at the Oregon Capital Chapter PRSA was creating an APR study group to prepare for the APR exam. How perfect was that?! Now this opportunity that I had dreamed of was sitting right in front of me, practically being served to me on a silver platter. As Mara Woloshin of Woloshin Communications would describe, the APR exam is nearly all refundable if you pass, and those who go through her study groups are staged for success, as her program boasts a 100% pass rate on the exam. Wa-bang! Ka-pow! This is IT!
This convergence of events resulted in my sitting in the room at the Broadway Commons (my new favorite meeting spot in Salem, Ore.!) on April 6 among several other PR professionals as we all began to make our way through this APR experience. I felt honored to be a part of this group, brought together by the industry icon herself Mara, and co-taught by the Oregon Department of Transportation Program Manager Dave Thompson.
I am excited to share my cup-filling experience with you, so please, follow me as I leap into this new adventure to advance Word’s Out PR and its clients with top-quality public relations.
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It’s no secret that those in the media world are super-busy. Especially when you get inundated with 200 to 300 e-mails a day, including news releases, media pitches, media alerts and the like. The great news for PR professionals is that they now have an effective way to reach their media friends without taking too much of their time. In comes the Twitpitch.
The new “Twitpitch” is essentially your elevator pitch via Twitter. Instead of sending your media contact a pitch and news release in which they need to scroll down the page and read more content, why not capture their interest with a 140-character or less Twitpitch?
The idea of pitching on Twitter is accredited to Stowe Boyd, who used Twitter to set up meetings during a conference. The media appreciate that the Twitpitch forces you to talk only facts (because you have only 140 characters for the first message) and then link to one URL related to your message. This link could be to your press release, social media news release, your product, or better yet it could be a link to the best or most prominent coverage that your message has gotten.
Put yourself in the media contact’s shoes. Compare a brief Twitpitch to getting an email from someone you don’t even know, with no text in the email body, and a 2-3 page document attached that you are supposed to read and respond to. Most likely the latter approach would end up in the junk mail or trash box. On the other hand, a Twitpitch is an open and transparent message that creates value without adding noise and is somewhat personalized.
In the case of our successful Twitpitch, here are three key steps we used and think you should use, too!
- Establish a relationship first. It’s ultra-important to develop a relationship first, otherwise you won’t be taken seriously. In the case of our successful Twitpitch, we first communicated with someone who knows our media contact personally. This helped us to build rapport because our contact introduced us to the media contact. It was after we established that relationship with the media that we suggested a story through a direct message (DM).
- Show that you’ve done your homework. This is basic PR code of ethics. Make sure your pitch is genuine and it’s evident that you’ve done your homework about the types of stories your media contact likes to cover. We suggested a story idea about a horseback riding business to an outdoors feature reporter; this reporter would not have appreciated a pitch on a new line of mascara!
- Don’t pitch and ditch. Social media conversations happen in real-time. If you’ve sent a Twitpitch, stay on Twitter or check your e-mail regularly to monitor your DMs and @replies so you can respond quickly. You don’t want to miss landing the big one! In our case, we received a DM inviting us to send more information: “ Hi…can you send information on your episode idea to email@example.com? Thanks!” Of course, we responded right away, both by DM and with a well-composed episode suggestion.
A successful Twitpitch helps you cultivate an honest relationship with a real person—it’s just a simple and respectful way of reaching that person. The following is the result of our first successful Twitpitch! Happy tweeting!
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The Internet can be a confusing and precarious place for someone who hasn’t been around that block a few times. With all of the social-networking sites around, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Yelp, Flickr, LiveJournal, YouTube, and many more, it’s sometimes hard not to get completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of places there are to cyber-network (and cyber-stalk your exes). Often times, when embarking on a public-relations campaign, we’ll recommend a combination of traditional PR strategies and emerging PR strategies (like the ones that Nicole wrote about in her last post), and we’ll also recommend that your business be visible on more than one emerging media network, so you can reach more people.
Each social networking site seems to pander to a different crowd: LinkedIn for the professional, Yelp for the opinionated foodie (guilty as charged), Flickr for the aspiring photog, etc., etc. But MySpace and Facebook seem to be geared toward the same goals, right? Both have options for a personal profile; both feature your favorite music, movies, interests, and hobbies; both have fan pages for brands; and both help you connect with friends, family, and others.
Historically, though, Facebook and MySpace couldn’t be more different. MySpace was open to everyone right off the bat, and profiles were completely customizable, which can be both awesome and terrifying. For example, if it wasn’t for MySpace, I would not know a lot of the HTML coding I do today. On the other hand, all the glitter graphics and obnoxious profile music not only slows down browsers, but makes MySpace feel like a place for kids and amateurs. Facebook, on the other hand, began as an exclusive network, open at first to students of Ivy League schools, and then slowly opening its pearly gates to other prestigious universities. When I was a freshman in college, I remember scrolling through the uber-exclusive Facebook university list, and being so upset that Western Oregon University wasn’t on there. The day it finally was (and after many letters written to the development team), I probably jumped for joy. I now had the keys to an exclusive network of other college students. Yes, the profiles couldn’t be flashy like MySpace, but Facebook provided what I felt was a safe place for me to communicate with other educated people.
As you might guess at this point, there has been research regarding the ways in which MySpace and Facebook stratify classes, and a lot of that probably has to do with each network’s historic roots: high-school tweens, partiers, spammers and burnouts went to MySpace’s personalized layouts and in-your-face advertising and music, while honors students and “mature” people went to Facebook’s one-size-fits-all profiles to grow up.
At this point, Facebook outranks MySpace as the most popular place for social networking, and MySpace no longer considers Facebook direct competition. So where do you want your business to be seen?
Regardless of your company’s type, we generally recommend that you have a Facebook fan page. Since Facebook now has more regular users than MySpace, your business has more of an opportunity to be visible through Facebook. While you are unable to embed music that begins automatically, and you’ll have to forgo those super-appealing glitter graphics, you can send out status updates, links, and notes to all of your fans, in addition to promoting your products or services through easy contests or promo codes. For all intents and purposes, Facebook makes it easier for you to connect with your target audience. The breadth of people who are on Facebook is astounding. What began as something for Ivies and college students has become a network for your boss, the kids you used to babysit, your mom (no offense), your priest (no joke), and your great aunt.
Should MySpace be completely thrown out, then?
Well, not necessarily. For all of the fake accounts and spam and pop-ups MySpace features, this site has worked to position itself as a place for all things entertainment-related. If you’re in the business of music, film, or anything related, you should consider interacting with people on MySpace. It’s a fairly direct way to share music and video, unlike Facebook, which does not include similar music widgets for indie (or mainstream) bands.
This debate really comes down to who your target audience is. Know it. Own it. And then choose. Still having trouble? That’s where we come in!
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In a moment of true clarity, Madonna once exclaimed, “We are living in a material world!” A few decades later, I think it’s safe to say that we are living in a digital world. (In that vein, does that make me a digital girl?) But let’s face it: The rules have changed. We’re no longer hand writing letters to our distant friends, and I’ve heard more than one acquaintance of mine recently grumble about having to use a real-life, 44-cent stamp!
Not only has communication become faster and faster, but communication has also become more and more lax. Everything now seems to come down to acronyms and emoticons, and to hell with capitalization and punctuation!
We’re so enculturated into a digital society, that it’s easy for us to forget who our audience is.
I have the best job in the world. I get to represent awesome, independent companies, and I can totally be my goofy self with Nicole, who I’m convinced is the most patient and rad boss ever. She just laughs when I make up crazy words like “AWESOMAZING” (a superior hybrid of “awesome” and “amazing”) or send a *facepalm* her way. In that vein, I am quite certain that I have never had a boss like her before, so chances are you don’t either. Which probably also means that your boss would be less-than-thrilled if you accidentally dropped an *eyeroll* in a written memo.
So here it is: Five things you should never write in an email to your boss…unless your boss is my boss…Nicole Miller.
- Multiple exclamation marks. When I was a freshman in college, I had the most evil writing professor on the face of the earth. So much so, that I’m surprised I continued to minor in writing after that class. He was in love with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and he hated “to be” verbs. He thought that Charlotte’s Web was the greatest piece of literature ever produced. While that class was probably worse than pulling teeth, I did respect his rules on punctuation: If you were only allowed to use an exclamation mark three times in your entire life, would you really use it right now? I remember that he actually circled any exclamation marks in our essays and, at the end of the semester, if we had used the mark more than three times, we got decreased points. He had a point, though. How awesome does it really look if YOU ARE ALWAYS SUPER EXCITED IN YOUR EMAILS??!!!!111!!1!!!!? Cut it out. One is enough, if you must.
- Emoticons. I think it’s pretty standard instant-messaging practice nowadays to drop an occasional smiley face, and maybe even a winky face if you’re really trying to be ironic. Emoticons can be cute and can lighten up a message. But in an email to your boss (who is assumedly not Nicole), they can come off as incredibly informal and immature. If whatever it is that you are writing can be misconstrued without the use of an emoticon, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you rethink what you’re writing. Emoticons: cute, but not professional.
- Acronyms. They’re everywhere. Just check out the comments section of any Oh No They Didn’t! post. I can pretty much guarantee that you will need to make a few trips to Urban Dictionary just to navigate all the crazy acronyms. Such slang like LOL, OMG, WTF, IDK, and ROFL has become so ingrained into our culture that I’ve had to stop myself a few times from actually saying them out loud. My point being, this is just another example of how our language has become super-casual, and unless you work for a company like the FDA, the IRS, or the CIA, you should probably avoid the acronyms. Don’t make your boss have to work so hard to understand that you were just laughing out loud, and not licking Oscar’s labrador. Just sayin’.
- Make digital gestures. I feel like this one is almost as obvious as emoticons. But I’ll emphasize it again: If whatever it is that you’re writing needs an *eyeroll* or a *facepalm* or a *shakes head in shame* or a *shudders*, then you should probably rethink what you’re writing. Be creative. I have faith that you can find more than one way to say something. And remember—sarcasm doesn’t always translate well in an email and is sometimes better left for face-to-face interaction. Take this into account when you’re drafting emails to your boss. Your tone is as important as the message you are relaying, and you should not be overly informal by including asterisked digital gestures.
- Abbreviate. Abbreviations vary from acronyms in that an abbreviation is simply a shortening of a single word. A lot of us take shortcuts when we’re texting. How many times have you caught yourself writing “u” instead of “you,” “plz” instead of “please,” “2mrw” instead of “tomorrow,” or “thanx” instead of “thanks”? Understandably, such abbreviations save time and space when you’re working from a phone; however, how would you react if you received an email from one of your employees that was chock full of such abbreviations? Not only does it get difficult to read, but it shows your boss that you didn’t take the time or energy to type a few extra letters or use your auto spell-check.
There you have it—the five things you shouldn’t email your boss. Feel free to take it with a grain of salt. I’ve broken every rule on this list, but then again, Nicole is my boss….
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After years of saying I don’t have time to start my own blog, I decided it was time to take that jump. After all, it was evident in the Social Media Bootcamp I attended last winter that those who want to position themselves as leaders in their industry ought to be blogging. Kelli Matthews made it sound so simple: she would just set aside time on Sunday to write a blog post or two and schedule them to run throughout the week.
So, here I am on Sunday writing my first blog post. Thanks to Ryan Welch at AO Creative we have a super-awesome new website with blog capabilities. I’ve been longing for a new Web 2.0-savvy site where we can maximize the social networking potential! I want to hear from people, interact and answer questions. After all, how can you tell your clients they need to be blogging if you’re not doing it yourself?
It’s the age-old problem: as service providers, we spend time servicing other people’s businesses and not our own. Thanks to the GROW North Santiam program that follows the Enterprise Facilitation model, I’ve learned about how a successful entrepreneur operates: one must establish their trinity of management so that while they take care of their product or service, they also have skilled team members in place to handle the marketing and financial aspects of their business. I’m all lined up with an absolutely fabulous bookkeeper Susan Dickinson (thank you for keeping us on track, Susan!) and now we’re establishing new ways of spreading the good news about Word’s Out PR, one of which will be this blog, “Hot Press.”
At the Social Media Bootcamp Kelli mentioned an idea that caught my attention: you should be planning your blog schedule, including who will be blogging, and individual or a group of contributors. I realized I could bring in my trusty Web 2.0 friend Danielle Kuehnel who knows and lives this stuff to add her pizazz to this blog, as well. Danielle’s got the whole PR package — she’s on the cutting edge, she’s a fire-cracker, she’s an excellent writer and she’s got persistence — and to top it off, she can really make you laugh!
If you’re interested in reading tips about PR, marketing and social media strategies, subscribe to Hot Press and we’ll give you our two cents! Make sure to post comments, ask questions and give us feedback… that’s what we’re looking forward to with this whole new Web 2.0 transition.