Expanding My Horizons

This semester, our Writing for PR class had the distinct pleasure of working directly with an organization. We worked with The Zambia Project, a Christian organization based in Mongu, Zambia.

When first hearing we would be working with The Zambia Project, I did not expect much. I thought we would visit the website, maybe pull some information and a few pictures then submit an assignment.

I could not have been more wrong.

From the very beginning, we immersed ourselves in the culture of this organization. Candice Martinez, U.S. director, visited our class and gave us a very informative presentation about all the good The Zambia Project is doing. We had multiple assignments that pertained to the Zambia Project including news releases and infographics.

We had the unique experience of using a webcam to interview Matt Mackie from The Zambia Project. I loved getting to hear his perspective on things since he is on the ground in Africa every day.

I loved this service-learning experience because I felt like I got exactly that – service and learning. I learned how to work closely with a client and cater to their wants and needs while still incorporating my own ideas. I also felt blessed to have been able to serve at MobilePack and pack meals that are sent around the world.

This service-learning experience opened up my eyes in more ways than one. I learned how to work with real clients and real organizations and I learned that the world is so much bigger than Conway. This semester was great and I truly feel that I gained so much from this experience!

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What does your resume say about you?

Often, your resume is your only opportunity to make a first impression on a potential employer. Too often, this first impression results in said employer deleting the email or throwing your resume in the recycle bin.

How can we avoid this predicament?

As a rising senior, I need to insure my resume is ready to forge ahead and introduce me before I can introduce myself. Because of this, I made an appointment with UCA Career Services for a resume review.

Making the appointment was fairly easy. I called and stated my classification, then chose an appointment time that worked for me. I was given an email address and told to send my resume to the reviewer ahead of time so she would have enough time to look over it and give me feedback.

I had a resume saved on my computer already so I simply sent it over then waited for my appointment. On the appointment day, I headed to the office.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was greeted with warmth and friendliness in the Career Services Center. I visited with Ms. Dioffo and she was extremely helpful. She had a copy of my resume printed out and we got right to work. She pulled out a pen and started marking things, such as the order of my titles and where certain things should go on the resume itself.

Not once did I feel uncomfortable or judged, I truly felt like she wanted to help me with my resume. After suggesting some changes, we started to chat about my major. She graduated from UCA in 2013 with a degree in PR and had several suggestions of how to get started in the industry.

Ms. Dioffo gave me a packet provided by career services all about how to write a good resume and even included templates. She sent the templates to my email so I could simply download them and fill in my own information.

Overall, the meeting was very helpful. The people at career services are kind and truly want to see students succeed, and my resume has never looked better!

PR? Isn’t that just…lying?

Since changing my major to public relations and communication, I have gotten some very interesting questions from both friends and family. When attempting to explain my new path to my dad, he said, “So you’re going to lie to people for a living?” He did not mean to offend, he truly thinks that is what PR is about.

While some cases of PR professionals lying have occurred in history, these cases do not make up the majority of the history of PR.  According to Gerard Corbett at The Guardian, “We use those unfortunate incidents as teachable moments for our members and the profession, helping them learn from their peers’ foibles and, in turn, improve the ethical pillars that undergird the profession” In other words, we as PR professionals grow and learn from our peers’ mistakes.

I will be graduating in about a year (which is terrifying) and will have to start looking for jobs that could turn into careers. It is very important to me that I find somewhere that allows me to express myself while still being able to stick to my morals. Valerie Shaindlin from After College Blog has a few suggestions for students like myself who will be entering the job market soon. She claims that some helpful skills include attention to detail, being self-motivated, organizational skills, composure, comfortability in new situations and being energetic. Along with these personal skills, Valerie states a few technical skills that might come in handy such as public speaking, Microsoft Office proficiency and verbal communication skills. Looking at suggestions like this gives me confidence in my abilities, since I believe that I possess many of the skills listed and more. I finally believe that I have found the place that I am supposed to be.

My focus right now as an aspiring PR professional is to maintain a high standard of work. I set the bar high for myself and constantly challenge myself to work harder and achieve more. I am very self-motivated, and I think this will only help me as I move into the future. There are tons of resources available to me as I move forward in my PR journey and I cannot wait to see where this road takes me.

Internet Killed the News Release Star

With the vast world of technology, is it any wonder that print news releases have become a thing of the past?

The fact of the matter is, online news releases can reach a wider audience. If a news release is posted online, it has “the potential to reach bloggers, journalists, and industry influencers who search for and/or have alerts set up for information on the topics they cover” according to Tara Geissinger at SpinSucks. With this wider reach, PR Professionals can become more efficient at their jobs than ever before! Why wouldn’t you want to use online news releases?

The real purpose of a news release is to build brand awareness and credibility with your consumers. If done correctly, an online news release can do this for consumers locally, nationally, and even internationally. What printout can do that?

Shel Holtz at PR Daily argues that just as older forms of media have done in the past, print news releases will simply evolve. For example, tons of printables have QR codes on them.

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PRDaily.com

These QR codes often open a new world to consumers of print media. However, the internet is required for these. Wouldn’t it just be easier to visit a website or simply Google something than it is to go through the trouble of locating the code, locating an app that will scan it, downloading the app, scanning the code, then finally reaching the website? As viable as print news once was, it is slowly becoming a thing of the past.

If print news releases are dead, what is the next logical step?

As a millennial, I am a part of a completely digital generation. I do not remember a time without internet and I have had a cell phone since I was 12 years old. To me, the only logical thing to do is to move to online news releases. These releases are easier to distribute, more eco-friendly, and have a much wider range.

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Treehugger.com

While some from older generations may scoff at this, hear me out. I’m not condoning switching to a 100% digital world – not at all. I write in my planner every day and love to take notes by hand. However, it is much easier to carry around a laptop or smartphone with a world of information on it than it is to carry around an overstuffed binder or folder with no clue where to find anything.

Julie Ray at Millennial Marketing has a great solution that will please almost everyone. She suggests creating a multi-platform model. Instead of only presenting your release on the internet or only mailing it to clients, do both! It is your job as a PR Professional to get to know your consumers and understand how to best appeal to them.

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Colourbox.com

It’s clear that different people prefer different mediums of media, and generational expectations may have a role in this. I believe it is my job to fully understand this, and attempt to do what makes things easiest on both myself and my consumers. In a way, print news releases are dead, but they will never be truly gone.

 

Kiss & Tell All – PR email pitches

In a world of technology, is it any wonder that email pitches rank at the top of a journalist’s preference list?

One of the greatest tools a PR professional can have is the ability to write a strong pitch. PR Daily reports that “despite prevalent social media use, reporters still prefer email pitches” at an overwhelming rate.

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PR Daily’s survey of 256 media professionals

So, in a sea of email pitches, how do you stand out? Cision.com suggests a few simple rules.

In general, using any kind of software to send out a mass pitch is never a good thing. Similarly, don’t copy and paste the same pitch to hundreds of different journalists. They are trained to sniff these things out and will delete your email as soon as it hits their inbox.

Another key tip is to ensure you know some background information on the journalist or media outlet you are pitching to. Doing research on their past projects can help immensely with this. If they usually write sports articles, it’s probably not a great idea to pitch them a story about a bake sale fundraiser.

Subject line, subject line, subject line! This is something you will see repeated innumerable times in your PR journey. If your email does not have an intriguing (and truthful) subject line, you will lose your chance at the pitch and possibly at other opportunities in the future.

Perhaps the most important tip to note is to offer exclusivity. No journalist wants a story that every other major media outlet can access easily. An exclusive story is something that will draw in readers and put the journalist or their publication on the map. According to Harvard Business Review, the most attractive characteristic of a pitch is its exclusivity.

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Harvard Business Review Survey

 

Some of the best email pitches are also some of the simplest. Alyson Shontell of Business Insider reflected on one of the greatest email pitches she received that happened to come from a 16-year-old entrepreneur. While Shontell admits that this pitch might not have worked for everyone, it worked for her. Here is the pitch she received with the subject line reading “Article”

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Email pitch from Xavier Di Petta

Shontell says that a few things really stood out to her in this pitch, including the simple subject line. She was intrigued by what the email might contain. Di Petta also acknowledged that as a reporter, Shontell is busy. In fact, in the article she states that she had 600 emails in her inbox that morning. Di Petta’s stood out because of his courtesy and his drive.

As strong as this pitch was, it could have been stronger. Numbers always stand out, and Di Petta failed to mention he is raking in around $50,000 per month at the ripe age of 16.

In the end, the best way to improve on email pitches is to write them. Practice is definitely a major key, and getting feedback is always helpful for improvement.

The biggest takeaway from this information is that all you need to do in order to write a successful email pitch is to KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

A First-Time Blogger Critiquing Blogs

When attempting something new, it is often beneficial to observe other’s work. As a brand-new blogger, studying these PR blogs definitely gave me a lot to think about. Today, I looked at posts from The Flack, Brian Solis, and Spin Sucks and analyzed what I thought worked and didn’t.

 

The Flack

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Screenshot from flatironcomm.com

 

The post I chose to read on this website immediately caught my attention because of the title, “Will Television Follow Newspapers’ Fate?”. I was definitely interested to know what the post thought the fate of newspaper was and how they saw the future of television.

This post immediately drew me in with a graph. I am typically a pretty visual person and this graph was easy to read and helped me grasp the concept of the article much more quickly.

One thing I did not like about the post was the amount of quotes throughout. The quotes themselves were not bad, but each one was formatted differently and set apart from the rest of the post in a different font and indicated by a yellow line which made the entire post very choppy and hard to read.

Something I did learn, however, was that the newspaper industry is actually growing. More and more money is being spent on ads, which is a pleasant change.

 

 

Brian Solis

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Screenshot from briansolis.com

Again, the post I chose on this website drew me in because of the title. I am a huge pop culture fan and always stay up-to-date on celebrity news and current events, so the Miss Universe Pageant debacle was fascinating to me.

I enjoyed this post because it was succinct. The writer knew what he wanted to say and he got his message across very clearly. He included a screenshot of his tweet regarding the issue which provided further clarification on his stance.

The least interesting aspect of this post was the recap of the night’s events. After the screenshot of the tweet and the photo of the card Steve Harvey read from, it seemed redundant to tell the story again.

This taught me a totally new approach to PR: design. We often focus so much on the message we are sending out and making sure everything sounds perfect that we skip over how it physically looks in the email or on the page. A well-formatted e-mail is just as important as pertinent information, as it attests to your level of professionalism.j

 

 

Spin Sucks

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Screenshot from spin sucks.com

Here I am, yet again, getting sucked in by another title. I’m starting to see a pattern. This time, it’s something rather unexpected. When reading things related to PR, I’m used to hearing about how to do things the right way. This post, however, is focused more on what not to do.

I thought the most interesting thing about this post was how the writer took every seemingly negative thing that emerges after being fired and turned it around into a positive lesson. I try to practice positivity and happiness daily, and I enjoyed this approach to a not-so-positive topic.

What I did not think went as well was the titles of each “lesson”. They were worded very strangely and did not always pertain to the explanation that was provided underneath them.

Something valuable that I learned from this post is that things are not always going to go right. Often, there are obstacles and setbacks and this is normal. People struggle with clients, businesses and companies constantly and there is no easy fix. However, with the right attitude and mindset, I can conquer the PR world.

 

 

After reading Tips for Success, I decided to review this post from The Flack.

The first tip for better writing states that a writer should avoid too much information. Unfortunately, I do not think Peter Himler did this. The information he added to his post was very relevant and valid, but it was simply overwhelming. The post is extremely long, and I found myself scrolling down to the bottom to see if I would ever make it, or if I would get lost somewhere in cyberspace.

Tip two suggests that a writer should not talk about relationships gone bad. I don’t think that this tip applies too much to this post  because it is addressing more of a public issue rather than a specific company.

Next, we read that to be a successful writer, we must be ourselves and show some personality. Himler is able to do this toward the end of his article when he stops using quotes and uses his own voice.

Dress for the occasion, or, in this case, tailor your writing to the place and time you are in. Himler does this well. I believe he is writing this piece to inform the public of the current downward trend of television subscribers, and he does this very well. He does not seem to be pushing any other agenda.

Keep your drinks to a minimum means that your writing should be crisp, clean, and coherent. This is where I believe Himler fails. His post is poorly formatted and difficult to read. It is very choppy and does not hold my attention well. Had it been formatted in a cleaner, more precise way I believe it would have been much more effective.

Finally, order the steak. Readers prefer substance over style. A writer can use superfluous, unneeded, excess, surplus, redundant words to lengthen their sentences or attempt to sound more intelligent, but it is not impressive to the reader. The most important thing, at the end of the day, is to inform the public of the issues that could become prominent in their daily lives.