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Podcasts: Inside PR (tow-12) April 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     One way to keep up with current events in the field of public relations is to subscribe and listen to PR podcasts. These are usually weekly broadcasts on the internet that address virtually any topic related to public relations and marketing.

     Like most Web 2.0 applications, podcasts have the advantage of being fully interactive for the producer and audience.  Comments are encouraged, as they can give the creator of the podcast direct feedback.  Most podcasts also have Twitter or Facebook accounts, so the networking possibilities are vast.

     There are several websites that regularly post PR/marketing podcasts. I chose to listen to  Inside PR’s March 31st broadcast to get a feel for what they have to offer PR students.  This week’s topic was “online reputation management,” hosted by Terry Fallis and David Jones.

     The first thing I noticed about the podcast was the familiarity of the format.  It is very similar to a regular radio broadcast, featuring theme music, soundbites, and listener comments.  Overall, the presentation sounded very professional.

     Terry and Dave began the podcast with a discussion of the increasing popularity of Twitter and Facebook.  They both stated that they are optomistic about the growth of social networking sites and remarked how mainstream media has come to adopt them as permanent fixtures in our culture.  One interesting point they brought up however was the question of whether or not the majority of the 19 million registered users are active.  This is an important thought to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of Twitter as a communication tool.

     Listening to podcasts such as those produced by Inside PR, Trafcom News, or Marketing Over Coffee can be very beneficial for students as well as PR practitioners.  They provide a hassle-free way for keeping up with current trends.  You can listen to a podcast at your desk, while walking to class, or pretty much anywhere.  It’s also a great opportunity to get accustomed to a professional broadcast format.

Getting Acquainted With Infographics (tow-11) April 26, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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Example of an Infographic

     What better way is there to call attention to your news release or feature story than using a captivating graphic?  They are extremely effective, and give publications a much-needed visual appeal.  In addition to standard photos and graphs, many PR practitioners are using infographics in their publications.

     The authors of Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques define an infographic as a computer-generated artwork that attractively displays tables and charts.  Infographics were most likely popularized by USA Today.  Many different newspapers and other publications have since followed suit.

     A good infographic should appear as a simplified version of a chart or graph. The key is to make it as visually appealing as possible, while at the same time providing enough information to neccesitate a chart or table.  It needs to be simple, so any excess information will just look cluttered.

     Creating an effective infographic is actually quite simple.  They can be prepared in standard applications such as Microsoft Office Publisher.  Some practitioners however may find that Publisher’s features are limited in comparison to other programs.  Adobe provides much more sophisticated graphic design software, such as InDesign and Illustrator.  Keep in mind however that the idea behind creating an infographic is to keep it simple, so Microsoft Publisher will suffice for those just getting started.

     Infographics are useful in many ways. Feature stories can be better illustrated with the use of catchy graphics, especially if the client wishes to compare and contrast a certain point.  Another common scenario is a firm that needs to produce a release about financial issues.  Stockhoders and investors usually want to get down to the “dollars and cents” part of a story, so an infographic is a great way to present this type of information.

     Check out spyrestudios for the 5 steps to creating a powerful infographic:

  1. Skeleton & Flowcharts
  2. Devising a Color Scheme
  3. Graphics
  4. Research and Data
  5. Knowledge

     These tips will get you started at creating appealing and informative visuals.

PR OpenMic (tow-10) April 26, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     It seems like there is a social network for pretty much everything under the sun recently, and as any student or teacher of public relations knows, these sites are essential to creating an online presence. The popularity of sites like Facebook and Youtube have put new, Web 2.0 technologies on the map. So it is fitting that Robert French, from Auburn University created one specifically for PR students, teachers, and practitioners:  PR OpenMic, “your worldwide network for connections and learning.”

     At first glance, the interface that Robert French created seems very similar to other social networks. Members can create their own profile page, add content such as blog posts and videos, and hold discussions in various forums. The site is also a good place to catch up on breaking news stories.  If you want, you can even download the PR OpenMic Toolbar, which has easy to follow links to the major news sites that they check daily.  Another useful feature of the site is the inclusion of instructional videos.  Here, a PR student can get tips on improving their blogs, proper etiquette in online discussions, how to pitch the media, and much more.

     So all of these features sound great, but can PR OpenMic help students with their job searches? The answer is yes.  The Jobs/Internships  page provides links to several employers seeking applicants with expertise in public relations.  I was surprised at how many postings there were in this section. The job postitions up for grabs include:

  • Group Account Director
  • Social Media Intern (paid)
  • Media Relations Manager
  • Sr. Communications Manager
  • Product Communications Specialist

     The job listings range from entry level to management postitions, which illustrates that PR OpenMic is a great site to be a member of throughout your career.

     Members of PR OpenMic can also post resumes, review current listings, and get pointers on navigating tough job interviews. If you are in college right now, this is a great social network to be a member of.

Writing Better Leads (TOW-8) March 12, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     A good lead is essential to most types of writing, especially when trying to persuade someone. The lead is there to engage the reader and convince him or her to continue, so it must contain enough information to hook them, but not so much that they feel they don’t have to read the rest. The Lead Lab at Poynter News University was a great exercise for writing 2 different types of leads, direct and delayed leads.

Types of Direct Leads

  • Analysis – puts the story immediately into perspective
  • Summary – a hard/breaking news lead

Types of Delayed Leads

  • Anecdotal – tells a story
  • Significant Detail – a shocking fact to attract attention
  • Emblem – using human interest to subject a theme to the story
  • Round Up – used to demonstrate trends

     It surprised me to see how easy it is to underappreciate the basic elements of effective lead writing. A long time ago in Inro to Journalism, I was taught the importance of conveying the five W’s: Who, what, when, where, and why. A lead might seem good, but if it doesn’t incorporate these elements, then it needs to be re-written. The lead lab also called attention to a sixth element, the “So What?” element. This is just a reminder that people want stories that help them understand what matters in the world right now. If something is not newsworthy, then it will take a really creative lead to draw attention to it, which is an important consideration to make when choosing a story or event to cover.

     In addition to the points that were addressed in the News University course, it’s very important to practice writing leads. Writing is much like exercising, in that if you don’t use it, you lose it. I personally find that lead-writing is the most difficult part of writing a persuasive message. So much depends on the success of the lead. In the future, I’d like to figure out some better ways to practice this skill.

One Week of Twitter (TOW-7) March 1, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     After an entire week of using Twitter, the verdict is in: Twitter is useful. This is contrary to the way I used to feel about the website (I didn’t like it), since I first heard about it over a year ago. In fact, last year I worked for a company that required employees to post on Twitter, and I didn’t take it very seriously. There are many things about using Twitter that I discovered:

  • It’s quick and easy to use
  • Many other types of media link to Twitter
  • Not as “personal” as Facebook, but rather has a more professional feel
  • You can link Twitter posts to your blog page
  • All kinds of people are on Twitter: from celebrities to your grandmother
  • It’s addictive

     These are just a few observations from my limited time spent with Twitter. I found most features to be useful. It’s just as addicting as Facebook, but not a waste of time (yes, spending more than an hour a day on Facebook is a waste of time).

     My experience using Twitter was actually fun. Once I got a feel for how and what other users were “tweeting” about, I became more comfortable with it and started to contribute more. I’m just not interested in people tweeting about random, mundane aspects of their lives, but I like to see tweets about interesting articles or currnet events. In particular, I liked how I could talk about sports with some of the PR professionals I’m following. I found that Twitter is a great place to get questions answered as well.    

     I haven’t become a mega-fan of Twitter just yet (I don’t dream about tweeting), but I think I will become a regular user. It just has too much potential as a communication tool to ignore. Twitter presents a great way to keep in touch with teachers and classmates throughout the semester, and is more fun and engaging than email. Hopefully, Twitter will be useful as I start my job search after graduation.

     Those are my initial thoughts on Twitter. Check my profile out (chris_yates4) and start following.

Superbowl Ads 2010! (TOW-5) March 1, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     This year’s Superbowl was possibly the most exciting title game in recent NFL history. Fans from all over the world were no doubt glued to their seats for the entire game (I know I was). So was everyone sticking around for the commercial breaks? The commercials have become just as big of an event as the game to some people. I tend to believe that the quality of Superbowl commercials has declined in the past four or five years (the Budweiser Frogs represented the glory days), but there were several that I enjoyed from the current crop of ads. My favorite was the Google spot.

     I like this commercial because it seemed to be relatable to a wide audience. It touches on basic human emotions, such as love, and portrays a story that is instantly relatable. I think that Google probably intended the ad to be targeted to young adults, possibly between the ages of 18 and 30. The overall message in the commercial is that Google’s search engine is always there to help you through the challenges of life, or finding where you belong in the world. The story of the young man falling in love with a French girl is like a timeless coming-of-age story updated for the digital age.

     Another thing that impressed me about this commercial was its elegance and simpllicity. The ad runs for less than a minute, and the only thing viewers see is the Google search engine interface. This is a brilliant advertising strategy in my opinion. They accomplished the desired effect of the commercial while at the same time, showing how easy and effective Google searches are. In my case, the ad seemed to reinforce my feelings toward Google, and made me appreciate it more.

     One final note about this ad: It looks like it probably didn’t cost much to make. No actors were required, as were any types of shots on location or in a studio. This makes me think that the ad is a success. Google made a creative commercial that stood out and got a lot of publicity for a low cost.

Cleaning Your Copy (TOW-4) February 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     Seemingly everyone makes grammar or spelling mistakes from time to time. It’s really no surprise how many typos slip through the cracks. It is not uncommon to see misspelled words in a news broadcast, or an awkward punctuation error in a newspaper article. Those who produce content written content online should definitely be well versed in correct grammar and punctuation. Everything you write should be proofread. I think the best way to proofread is to simply read what you just wrote aloud. Writers owe it to themselves, regardless of their skill level, to brush up on some of the basics. Poynter News University offers an interactive course that I found to be helpful.

     This course offers helpful pointers on avoiding common punctuation errors such as comma usage: If a word or phrase is essential, do not put commas around it.

  • Essential: People who eat a lot of cookies may gain weight.
  • Non-essential: My sister, who eats a lot of cookies, never gains weight.

     Semicolons are often misunderstood and frequently misused. The rules for using semicolons are as follows:

  • Used to link independent clauses: The package was due last week; it arrived today.
  • Used to clarify a series if the series already includes commas: He leaves a son, John Smith of Chicago; three daughters, Jane Smith of Chicago, Marie Smith of Denver and Susan Smith of Boston; and a sister, Mary Warren of San Francisco.

     After taking several of the self-examinations, I was surprised to discover how rusty I am on basic grammar. The topics that threw me the most were rules for punctuating dates and times. Luckily I have an AP handbook with me at all times when I write, but it is advantageous to know the correct usage beforehand. When navigating a tight deadline, the last thing I want is to be slowed down by constantly checking the handbook.

The Importance of Commenting on Others’ Blogs (TOW-3) February 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     Blogging is both a unique kind of writing and a social experience at the same time. A well-maintained blog that is updated frequently, addresses current events, and offers constructive commentary on popular issues has the potential to make a number of impressions. Web 2.0 applications such as social networking sites, podcasts, and blogs are becoming an important frameword for our modern online communities. Therefore, I believe that commenting on others’ posts should be encouraged and done regularly. Feedback gives a blogger the feeling of concurrence, which encourages more open communication.

      It’s true that comments should be encouraged, but commentors and bloggers alike should always post responsibly. The blogosphere is a community just like any other, and its rules should be respected. Rude, derogatory, or outright negative comments should be avoided. This includes foul language as well, or any type of language that could be considered politically incorrect. My bottom line is to just be respectful at all times, just as you would in a class. A big incentive for responsible blogging and commenting is this: Most businesses who are reviewing applicants (especially college graduates) check things like the person’s Facebook page, Youtube activity, etc. You don’t wany a potential employer to see anything unprofessional that you have wrote and published for the world to see.

     Comments should be thoughtful or original in some way (even though they are generated in response to another’s ideas). I think a good tip is to offer examples or ways in which you agreed with the author, and then possibly compare/contrast them to some of your own ideas. A good comment might spark a new idea or cause the author to revisit a previous thought. I like to ask questions sometimes when leaving comments. If you’re interested in a particular subject and want to know more, this is a perfect opportunity.

Proper Way to Pronounce 2010? (TOW-2) February 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     Stumbling over the pronunciation of a difficult word can be embarrassing, especially in front of a group of people. A student or practitioner in public relations should be familiar with most of the commonly misused words out there, but what about rules for the current year? In one of the recent blog posts at her Grammar Girl website, Mignon Fogarty addresses this issue and offers some advice. In a nutshell, there are two schools of thought on the pronunciation of 2010:

  • Pronounced “Twenty-ten”
  • Pronounced “Two thousand ten”

     Some polls are indicating that a majority of people prefer the first option. This is reverting back to the traditional pronunciation method used before the turn of the century. I personally prefer the traditional way, but Fogarty argues that both pronunciations are acceptable. This isn’t surprising to me, as certain situations sound better one way or the other. Here are some examples she gives from pop culture:

  • TV show Sealab 2020 (pronounced “twenty-twenty)
  • The “apocalypse” year, 2012, is commonly pronounced two thousand twelve

     It surprised me to learn how much attention has been devoted to a matter that I would otherwise have thought to be trivial. By the way, something just as interesting were her tips on ways not to pronounce the year. Ever heard anyone say “twenty-oh-ten?” You don’t want to get caught saying this as it is a redundancy.

     One more fascinating subject the post addressed was the nature of the year. Should it be considered a number that represents an actual amount or merely a symbol? A question that doesn’t have a clear answer, but the fact is that we tend to be more flexible with the pronunciation of numbers that don’t represent amounts. This leads me to believe that years should be primarily condsidered as symbols. Does this really make me want to say 2010 one way or the other? Nope, but it’s useful to know.

What Makes a Story Newsworthy? (TOW-6) February 22, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.
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     Finding and making news can be a challenge at first. To begin with, the large scope of the media can be intimidating. With so many outlets to work with, it is sometimes a hard decision to decide the best option for your media campaign. Identifying the demographics of a target audience is a great way to get started. Senior citizens may not be as technologically savvy as those from younger generations for instance, so the internet wouldn’t be the best option. On the other hand, a young family that is constantly on the go might not have the time to sit down and spend time with a newspaper or 30 minute news program, and may instead choose to access news at their convenience online.

     Not just anything can be considered news however. PR practitioners should be aware that news must be timely or current, significant, and incorporate human interest. Also, an event’s relative proximity to the public’s community can make it more relevant.

     I think that the key to successfully get a client in the news is to create “news events” related to the organization and its goals. The same principles apply here as they did towards finding something newsworthy. Shouldn’t a planned event be relevant to those who live in the community? If it isn’t, then people might not care about it in the first place. It’s hard to please everybody, but with patience and perserverance, I think the mind can be trained to “see” what people are going to want. Afterall, the practitioner is human too. Immersing oneself in pop culture is a surefire way to be “in the know.”

     Polls and surveys should be a practitioners best friend and they serve two purposes. First, they can help you gather useful data on the public’s perception of a product, event, or organization. Second, survey results can be published through different mediums in order to generate publicity. If all else fails though, give away prizes! People love anything free, seemingly no matter what it is.

All information is paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques.