Friday, April 27, 2007

Best Practices in PR

The practice of public relations is often misunderstood and under-appreciated. Public Relations is critical to any organization’s success, whether it is for marketing purposes or for maintaining a responsible reputation.

Throughout the duration of this semester, I compiled a “holy grail”, if you will of best practices for PR. As PR continues to change, so does its practices. In my research of speakers, PR blogs, experiences from inside and outside of class, readings, and lessons from my professor I have listed five crucial elements to the success of any public relations campaign.

Read the newspaper daily. Part of PR is being up to date. Researching currency in public relations is the most important element of PR. So many factors hang on the relevant findings of conclusive research. Find out what the competition is up to. Find what’s current. Find what’s hot. In order to know where you are going you need to know where you are now and position campaigns in a way reflective of your findings. In doing so, messages will never be dated, information will always be accurate, and your PR strategy will always be a success.

Targeting and connecting with the appropriate media. Paul Rand of tells this story to reiterate the importance of this practice. A former foreign editor of The Wall Street Journal loved to tell reporters going overseas that he wanted them to scour Sri Lanka for an old man with a white beard sitting under a tree who had cornered the tea market. “Find him,” he commanded. Whether such a recluse existed or not, the editor knew such influential people exist and finding them is key to executing any PR message. Placing the right kind of information in front of the right people can spell success or failure. You would not pitch a business story to the editor of the entertainment section. That guarantees your story will not be picked up. Pitching to the wrong outlet is public relations death.

Timing is everything. Keep your stories up timely. Pitching an old story is like curdled milk. It is past its expiration date and nobody wants it. Sometimes, if a story is more lax with its release date it is helpful to wait for slow news day. If you pitch a story when the media is starving for news, it’s more likely to get published. A story pitched the day after the September 11th attacks about a new line of clothing stands zero chance of reaching publication, unless you applied a timely angle. If the designer donated new clothes to the victims of the attacks or set up a memorial fund, you might stand a chance.

Stay on the cutting edge. Know what’s trendy. Staying up on current events and trends provides the necessary knowledge to position PR practices in a way that is relevant and interesting to society. For example, people no longer watch the nightly news. Right now, people get their news through alternative channels. Comedians like Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien provide just enough information about current events to allow people to feel caught up and informed while being entertained. There are companies out there like, that have capitalized on the importance of trendiness and provide information to companies about trends and catalog them.

Be a great writer.
Your ability to write sells your ideas. It establishes you as a credible source. In order to be taken seriously you need to communicate effectively. Be polished. Keep writing tight and concise. Convey your message clearly. Keeping to the point and eliminating fluff is key to great writing. Only excellent pieces get media hits so in this case, it pays to be anal retentive about grammar, errors, and formatting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crow and David School Colleges on Global Warming

Sheryl Crow and Laurie David kicked off their “Stop Global Warming” college tour right here at SMU. It was an unseasonably chilly and windy day for Dallas, setting the perfect background to drive home the harmful effects global warming is having on our planet.

Singer Sheryl Crow and Laurie David, the producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” were accompanied by the Dallas, Austin and Arlington City Mayors. Together they acknowledged that Texas is the number one emitter of carbon dioxide in the country, yet Gov. Perry continually chooses to ignore the problem.

The tour ends April 22 - Earth Day - at George Washington University in Washington D.C. but not before making 11 stops along the way. Crow and David are touring in biodiesel-fueled bus.

Here's a quote from about Crow's visit to SMU.

The magazine asked what she's doing personally to reduce pollution and energy consumption.

"I try to wash my clothes in cold water as much as I can," she said. "I turn off lights in rooms that I'm not using. I drive a hybrid. I'm getting solar panels for my house."

You too can help the crusade by joining the virtual march online at So far, 700,000 people have already signed up and the list is still growing strong.

And by the way, I think the fact that the tour kicks off at SMU where President Bush wants to put his Presidential Library demonstrates these two women are not only passionate and committed, but that they have a great sense of humor.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SMU Students Want to Be Their Own Boss

Many young people experience a major outbreak of the entrepreneurial spirit during their college days. Maybe it’s that youthful sense of pride and ambition that seems to be characteristic of people in their twenties. Maybe it is because life hasn’t beaten us to a pulp yet. Whatever the case, entrepreneurial ventures and the desire to be self employed is on the rise in college students across the country.

It is a trend that is specific to this generation’s college grads. One factor to consider is the way today’s youth was raised is far more technologically advanced than our predecessors. We grew up on the computer instead of in front of the T.V. and were practically born with blue tooth technology embedded in our ears. This immediate access to communication created a need for instant gratification in young people not seen in previous generations. Having instantaneous and unlimited flows of information at upon one’s demand surely creates jaded expectations. Young people are seeking that same immediate success in the work place after graduation. College graduates no longer seek to stay at one stable job and climb the corporate ladder. They want to be the corporate ladder and set their own standards as they go.

This is especially the case here at SMU. Right now, in college dorm rooms across campus the next generation of Bill Gateses and Michael Dells are hard at work. The Cox School of Business even offers an entrepreneurship program at the Caruth Institute and its website includes a list of recent grads that have gone on to successful being their own businesses.

Many SMU students express the desire to be their own bosses after graduation and start their own companies. One thing to consider is the demographic of students that compile the SMU student body. There is definitely a shortage of broke, Ramen-eating college kids here. Tuition is prohibitively expensive. The Princeton Review explains the typical student at SMU carries a Louis Vuitton bag, charges on daddy’s credit card and is tan all year round. There are far more BMW’s in the parking garages than hand-me-down Corollas. But despite the privileged upbringings of SMU kids, entrepreneurial aspirations appear to be on the rise across the country. Whether or not they ever achieve this goal, the entrepreneurial way of thinking is on the rise.

This shift in attitude is apparent across several business ventures. It seems like these days, whenever you look at a newsstand, at least one major business magazine has a cover story about a wildly successful entrepreneur in his or her 20s or 30s. According to author, Jennifer Kushell, that's not surprising when one considers that one out of every five small-business owners in America is under 35, and that more young people are starting businesses than ever before.

Read more in:
“The Young Entrepreneur's Edge: Using Your Ambition, Independence,and Youth to Launch a Successful Business” by Jennifer Kushell

Or find out more about entrepreneurial ventures at SMU:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dawn Dishes it Out: A Case Study in PR

On May 4, 2005 Proctor and Gamble staged a wash-a-thon of record-breaking proportions at Irwindale Speedway in Los Angeles in order to prove that a single bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid can clean 10,000 dishes. Then, daredevil Kaptain Robbie Knievil jumped over the stacked dishes in a death-defying motorcycle jump.

Proctor and Gamble staged this event as a promotional stunt to generate awareness and hype around Dawn’s long lasting benefits. Despite the small size of the bottle, the wash-a-thon set out to prove that Dawn dishwashing detergent packs more bang for the buck compared to bargain brand counterpart.

Proctor and Gamble allotted the campaign a budget of $500,000 and employed the tactics of a public relations firm that designed the following plan.
1)Infuse the low-interest dishwashing liquid category with excitement

2)Create memorable, larger-than-life visuals reinforcing that "a little Dawn goes a long way"

3)Appeal to Hispanic consumers via location and spokesperson/host

Target Audiences:
•Primary: Middle income, working women with children
•Secondary: Hispanic consumers who are value seekers

The agency created a bi-lingual umbrella theme: Dawn Goes the Distance (Dawn Supera la Distancia) and developed a four-pronged integrated marketing effort:

•Hold a massive eating/washing event that will prove just one 25-oz. Dawn bottle can wash over 10,000 dishes, lending credibility to Dawn’s long-lasting claims.

•Market and hold the event in a Hispanic targeted area. (Los Angeles, home to the majority of U.S. Hispanics) and Hispanic celebrity host to emotionally connect with target

•“Wow" visual for media coverage and advertising shoot with stunt jump

•Celebrity spokesperson (Knievil) to communicate Brand value message and generate attention.

Did the campaign work? The answer is, yes. Two years later, you are still reading about here. And the numbers don’t lie, either:

•The program achieved its goals and exceeded expectations. 13,350 dishes were scrubbed clean with just one bottle of Dawn, when the original goal was 10,000 proving Dawn as powerful and effective detergent.

•Coverage saturated the media including 575 Hispanic and general television hits. ESPN and CNN both covered the story

•The finances and profitability of dawn increased in part, due to the campaign. Dawn detergent sales increased by eight percent and competitor dollar and volume share fell despite their own versions of heavy promotion.

Ultimately, the “Dawn Goes the Distance” campaign proved a success. The tactics implemented fulfilled the original goals outlined by Proctor and Gamble and increased product profitability…And in case you’re wondering….Knievil cleared the jump

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Household name....

What does Paris Hilton do? I mean really, what does she actually do? Other than monopolize the time and effort of some exceptional public relations people. Granted, they do not appear to be experts in the fields of damage control and image building, but somewhere, a small army of very talented PR agents helped Paris Hilton build a career that has made her famous for…well, being famous.

While Paris Hilton would certainly disagree and shamelessly self promote her career as an actress/model/singer turned “triple threat”, I have to wonder when drinking, partying and excessive spending ever threatened anything, except maybe one’s health.
With the rise of the public relations field and development of the PR agency, more and more “celebrities” like Paris Hilton have the tools to establish media oriented careers for doing very little work.

Paris Hilton’s movie, The House of Wax was a flop. Her CD, not so great. Yet, she stars in her own reality series and was one of Google’s most searched for hits in 2006. She even has her own perfume. What must that smell like? Booze and blonde hair dye?

In the grand scheme of things, props must be given to her PR people. I’m in awe. It’s like the car wreck you shouldn't slow down to look at, but just can’t help it. Here’s the other thing. Her partying, recklessness, and flashy demeanor are not where she fell through the cracks or where someone, somewhere failed to properly manage her career. It’s all part of the plan. Those are the things that generate media attention and in the end have established the brand that is Paris Hilton.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Heal Magazine to Launch in May

Surviving cancer is lifelong process. The creators of Cure magazine are launching Heal, a publication dedicated to healing of the mind, body, and soul after surviving cancer. After treatment is over, survivorship begins.

The goal of Heal magazine is to create a forum for survivors to share experiences and provide encouragement, support, and inspiration. The Heal online community will be the voice for these survivors and their families.

As part of my class assignment I began researching Heal and looking for other online communities that cater to cancer survivors.

Other Sites and Communities to See:

The Cancer Blog is a great example of a blogging community created as an outlet for people whose lives have been touched by cancer. Blog topics are numerous and wide-ranging. I like this blog because of the personal element. Real people tell about their real experiences. I think the format of this forum is easy to use and encourages a sense of community for cancer patients.

The web page for the American Cancer society focuses on providing emotional support, day-to-day help, and information.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a specific page dedicated to cancer survivorship with lots of great information. This site would be a great place to draw Heal readership.

All of these sites contain elements related to the vision of Heal’s internet forum. The success of the Cancer Blog is due to the participation and communication of its readers. Encouraging reader’s to blog their experiences is a great way to unite the Heal community and begin the flow of information will that will benefit readers the most.

Topics like patient testimonials, stories of family members and friends, and offering advice to readers will help Heal grow into a promising online community that will benefit survivors by providing an outlet to address these concerns and contact other people fighting the same battles.

To visit Heal Magazine go to:

Friday, February 9, 2007

How To: Media Relation Strategies

Professional relationships are a crucial part of any successful businesses. For PR professionals the most important relationship is that with the media. Strong relationships with the media help to insure frequent press and ink for clients. In this case, the cliche, "It's not what you know its who you know," is quite true. So, I have composed the following suggestions for developing media relationships.

The first step to developing media contacts is learning the who’s who. Begin by reading everything: newspapers, magazines, blogs. By familiarizing yourself with journalists and reporters you now have the necessary background information to approach them. Find out what is specific to individual reporters and be relevent. Know their beat. Provide them with pieces that only relate to their area of expertise and find out ways you can help each other. Provide an interesting piece on a slow news day or give a business reporter a lead on a company you know your friend is starting.

Once you have done your research and you know who's who, start networking. Establishing relationships before you need them is vital. It will be a lot easier to work with a reporter you have a history with than asking a stranger to do you a favor later on. Go to events in your area for journalists and other professionals in PR. There are several organizations that cater to this industry and all you have to do is sign up.

Check out the Public Relations Society of America for more ideas, local meetings, and even job opportunities.

Once establishing contacts with the media it is important to maintain them. Your relationship with the media counts. How much it counts is up to you. While it is true a good press release speaks for itself, journalists have the pull to give your story a push into becoming news. Good bonding with journalists can save PR accounts in crisis situations.

Once in the door, you have to fight to keep yourself there. It is important to show that you are adaptable and capable of working in the media-PR scene. The abilitiy to produce, write and execute materials for the media is crucial to getting ink. Demonstrating these strenths while upholding journalists standards will prove you as a reliable and reusable source. This process ensures name recognition for you and coverage for you client.

With today’s technological advancements it’s easy for an email or press release to become just another piece of junk mail. Making a phone call or asking for face time is the best way to strengthen a developing relationship. Start by showing you know your stuff. Tell the reporter you are familiar with their work. Compliment their pieces. Flattery goes a long way. Emails get your point across, but won't get you remembered. That human element of communication is still the best way to get your name out there and to be remembered.

There are more strategies available at: