CAP 220

Reflection of PR

As this semester of my first public relations class comes to a close, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on my time and my experiences. First off, I would like to thank my professor (hats off to you, Wallace) for being the professor I’m glad I chose to take the class with, and that I hope one day I can accomplish all she has. No, that’s not sucking up, just giving some credit where credit is due because there’s an overwhelming lack of that nowadays. Anyways, this semester has had its handfuls of ups and downs.

I would like to start by clearly stating I thoroughly enjoyed this class. Coming in as a Comm Study major emphasizing in Ad/PR, and only being a sophomore with no prior Ad/PR experience, I felt a bit like a deer in the headlights before classes started. However, I quickly settled in and I now feel sure this type of thing is what I want to do with my life. I feel accomplished that I chose a major entering college and, as of right now I suppose, I am sure it is what I want to do (of which, of course, is subject to change because let’s be honest, it is college). I feel I have at least some sort of talent in it, whatever talent that may be, and I feel I can understand the majority of the material that comes with it.

The struggles did not come as often as I had originally planned. As with all classes, there were the occasional brain farts, writers blocks, impossibility to find valid sources, etc. The work load came about as expected, technically being a “supplemental writing skill” class. Although, no greater feeling came than when the final binding went on that campaign book and the final sigh of relief was exhaled. Getting to look down at a semester’s worth of an accomplishment and be proud of every word I put in there. Now, could I take that semester’s worth of a book and make a living out of doing things like that? Ehh…I could give it a shot I suppose.

The biggest and most important thing I learned was that there are so many steps to creating a campaign and planning processes and relationship connections, among the like. I understood being a PR practitioner was a stressful position, but there really are extensive amounts of research and time that go into creating things such as these campaigns. Keeping facts straight, hitting deadlines, planning things out, and maintaining and building relationships are essential to generating a successful reputation for your organization, your public, and yourself.

All in all, it was an interesting, yet fulfilling semester. After going through the long, grueling process, it does make me feel better about myself that I chose something I believe I am going to enjoy and can’t wait to get involved in. I know I will have friends in high and low places and the time can’t come soon enough that I get out there and make a name for myself (or the company or public I represent).

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Evaluation – PR Context

What may be the most important part of the campaign process is the evaluation of the campaign. All campaigns need to have a form of measure at the end to be able to judge whether or not the campaign was a success or not. An evaluation does not always turn out positive either. Often times, a campaign may need work or adjustments because the results from the strategies and tactics did not turn out the way that was intended.

Evaluation in public relations, as well as strategies and tactics, are no new matter. “During the more than 100 years outlined in this paper, the fascination of practitioners with media relations strategies and tactics has remained consistently prominent…However, academic discussion of measurement and evaluation took more than 70 years to get traction, with the 1970’s being the starting point” (Hester, 2009, p. 472-473). For over a century, evaluating campaigns have grown and been reshaped by results stemming from extensive primary research. Much of what this paper reiterates is that even though the quantitative and qualitative measurability ideas have adapted drastically over time, the importance of the evaluation in the campaign process has extremely increased.

PRISA, a leader in public relations and communications management, states something that appears to be a trend. I’ve seen in multiple articles that the Barcelona Declaration of 2010 set the “first globally accepted guideline of public relations management.” The biggest point made by this is that “outcomes are preferred to measuring media results” (Why, 2013). What this is saying is that it has become more desired to create a measurability based on solid research results than easy quantitative media numbers. This is because even though media results are much easier to interpret and measure, they might have truly proven to affect the business itself.

In addition to the importance of evaluation, expectations in relation to evaluation must also be managed. It is far from successful to set expectations on a national level, and only achieve a level that didn’t exceed even a local level. “If your CEO expected a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal and your biggest success was a feature article in an environmental magazine, you need to manage expectations and set mutual goals prior to your next PR program” (Johnson, 2014). In essence, it is healthy for a public relations practitioner to maintain a mutual, healthy expectation and goal setting between the organization and the target audience. In doing so, the organization will not have an expectation come crashing down on top of them in the midst of losing money, and the target audience will not be let down from the standard set so high beforehand.

The evaluation process continues to grow the be one of the most crucial pieces in the entire campaign process. For years, practitioners have stressed result analysis in order to find what can be improved, what was done well, and what can be done for next time. Without a proper evaluation, how can any organization or PR firm be sure if what they are doing is working or not?

References

Hester, J. B. (2009). Public relations metrics: Research and evaluation. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 86(2), 472-473. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/762957631?accountid=39473

Johnson, K. (2014). Evaluation Techniques Used in PR. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/evaluation-techniques-used-pr-61478.html

Why evaluate public relations coverage and the role of measurement. (2013, August 1). Retrieved from http://www.prisa.co.za/membership/594-why-evaluate-public-relations-coverage-and-the-role-of-measurement-august-2013

Social Media

Yes, I have a Facebook account. I have a Twitter account. I also have an Instagram, Snapchat, and BuzzFeed account. No, sadly enough, I do not have a MySpace account like all of the cool kids.

Now a days, social media dictates how a large majority of people receive and share their information. According to Internet World Stats (2012), there were approximately 836 million Facebook users in the world as of March 2012, a number that has continued to increase since then. What’s with all the social media buzz? The word is in the question. Social. People want to be able to share information and be seen by others, even socially “approved” by their peers. In a way, this directly connects to public relations in that exact sense. Public relations practitioners are all about building and maintaining relationships between individuals or organizations and their peers or publics, of which the individual or organization needs an “approval” from.

“Today, the Internet implementation in the marketing process is inexpensive, delivers instant international reach, offers great real time feedback, and reaches millions of people for whom the web is the center of virtually all communications” (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012, p. 319). Even though this article is targeted more on marketing instead of public relations, the same concept can be applied. The internet offers lightning fast production and reach across the worldwide spectrum. Facebook has recently created a sidebar on the user’s home screen that shows internet “trends” or popular articles or searches. Public relations practitioners can utilize this as gold if they are campaigning or involved in a situation that catches socio-technological attention. A well handled situation may be broadcast on that trending bar, viewed by the public, and retained as positive information or a type of “save it for later” information that may come in handy when it comes time for the public to make a decision on the campaign that is being represented.

Robert Wynne of Forbes.com, of which was included in a previous post as well, says in another of his articles that he has “strategies” for “winning social media” through public relations. Wynne (2014) offers six key components into properly integrating and utilizing social media in public relations:

1. Be Brief. Don’t Be Boring.

2. Be Newsworthy.

3. Be Helpful.

4. Avoid Facebook (interesting, first negative post about Facebook I’ve seen in my search)

5. Be Live.

6. Be Video Proficient.

In essence, what Wynne is saying is not to throw a press release on Facebook. Get to the point quick, but efficiently. Tell the public the important points that they need to know. Supply helpful information that is going to give the peers a “leg up.” As far as Facebook, Wynne says to yes avoid the boring, unattractive posting, but that groups that are well organized are a great idea. Being live means be up to date, respond to questions or mentions in a positive manner, and suggest private contacting for a more in depth response. Lastly, being video proficient can help attract necessary attention. The video may be shared, and shared, and shared, and shared, and before you know it, more than half the country or even world could know about your campaign.

Social media is the destination in which the current world is heading towards, if not already there. With the game changing, practitioners must also follow suit before getting lost in the past and potentially overlooked by the public. It may take time, but one can’t expect a flower to bloom the day the seed is planted, can they?

 

References:

Facebook Growth and Penetration in the World – Facebook Statistics. (2012). Facebook Growth and Penetration in the World – Facebook Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.internetworldstats.com/facebook.htm

Papasolomou, I., & Melanthiou, Y. (2012). Social media: Marketing public relations’ new best friend. Journal of Promotion Management, 18(3), 319-328. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/1240208254?accountid=39473

Wynne, R. (2014, April 28). Winning Social Media Strategies For Public Relations .Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwynne/2014/04/28/winning-social-media-strategies-for-public-relations/

Crisis

Crisis situations can be any public relations practitioner’s worst nightmare. In 2011, “public relations officer” was ranked the “second-most stressful profession in America” (Gladstone, 2011, p. 16) coming only behind commercial airline pilot. Crisis situations are not uncommon in the field of public relations, but how they are handled is what can either make or break professionals in the position, and at the same time can build or crumble corporations. It’s up to the work of the PR specialist to decide how to handle the relationship between the public and the organization in crisis situations (or in other words, they can be the lifesaver or they can sink the company). For this purpose, the example of the Odwalla Foods’ recovery of 1996 will be examined.

 

To sum it up, in 1996, Odwalla Foods’ apple juice was found linked to an E. Coli outbreak in Washington and caused the death of a child and 60+ people to become sick (Bhasin, 2011). The company pulled any products with apple or carrot juice, and the CEO promised to pay for any medical expenses of those affected. The way the media was handled was that “daily press briefings by Odwalla were used to update the public, along with full-page newspaper ads and a website explaining the situation.” Now, even though the company caused the death of a consumer and accepted responsibility, lost a large market chunk, and paid a $1.5 million fine, they stayed in business. “It focused on customer relations in the months following, attempting to rebuild trust. Odwalla fixed the contamination issue and improved its quality control and safety system.”

 

According to Satterfield and Squire (2012, p.70-71), the public relations specialists handled the crisis situation very well because they focused on four key “M” concepts: message, media, monitoring, and metrics. In the message, The CEO of Odwalla personally accepted responsibility for the incident to the media, and pled guilty to the charges filed by the FDA which resulted in the $1.5 million fine. They made sure to give daily updates to the public, informing them of the status of the situation and progress they were making in the efforts to get everything cleared up, something that a consumer wants to know because otherwise there is still reason for concern with any of the company’s products. The media was handled through those daily press briefings along with the full-page newspaper ads. In addition, the CEO coming out and handling the media himself personally was a strong move as the leader of a large company speaking to his or her consumers. Customer relations were monitored for the next two months, of which was crucial to ensure the market was still interested in buying product after the air had cleared. Metrics play where even though Odwalla lost a third of its market, the company rebuilt and continued its success until it was sold to Coca-Cola in 2001 for $186 million (Bhasin, 2011).

Now, according to the same Gladstone article mentioned previously, PRSA member Joan Gladstone mentions that she also has four key steps, but this time for how to approach and get ready to act on the situation: preparation, teamwork, perspective, and practice. Gladstone says that conducting these on a regular basis can not only reduce the stress of the job, but help keep all practitioners ready at any moment in case a crisis moment strikes. She suggests setting meetings with executives to learn about potential problems, keeping up with team cooperation, sharing thoughts or emotions with fellow PR coworkers to see different views on the subject and ease stress, and practice relaxation so as not to overreact when a crisis hits (Gladstone, 2011, p. 17). Even though it is not defined if the Odwalla PR management team followed these guidelines, they were able to accomplish their goal and acted in a quick, efficient manner.

Personally, I agree fully that the Odwalla management team handled the crisis situation very well. The company remained standing and successful, and faced a minimal penalty for the death of a consumer, in which could have folded the organization instantly. No extreme lawsuits were followed through with (minus the one from the FDA which was more than likely inescapable), and the team kept the media and the public up to date and “well fed” with information, as well as withholding a healthy relationship with its consumers.

 

 

References:

Bhasin, K. (2011, May 26). 9 PR Fiascos That Were Handled Brilliantly By Management. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/pr-disasters-crisis-management-2011-5?op=1

Gladstone, J. (2011, October 1). Stress and Crisis in Public Relations Staying Cool on the Go. Public Relations Strategist, 17(3), 16-18. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=3af11d18-d593-416a-977e-5b5c5eedf35e%40sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4101

Satterfield, J., & Squire, J., C.F.E. (2012, November). Coming through a public relations crisis successfully. Franchising World, 44(11), 70-71. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/1220744477?accountid=39473

 

Purposes of Research

The importance of research, not only in public relations but in nearly any other aspect of life, is key because it all breaks down to three simple words: numbers never lie. Facts. Truths. Raw data. When one implements the support of statistics or fact-based details, the upper hand more often than not sways in his or her favor. Public relations are a process that often uses the acronym RACE (Research, Action, Communication, Evaluation). In order to complete said process, the first step of research must be completed and must be completed correctly. Faulty research can lead to lawsuits, labeling, and embarrassment of the face of a company or individual. Campaigns, relationships, and much more can be strengthened through the proven facts and raw data research can provide.

 

An article I came across, written by Assistant Professor Brigitta R. Brunner of Auburn University, recounts Don W. Stacks Primer of Public Relations Research (2002). Brunner (2003) summarizes many key parts of Stacks’ piece,  saying “Stacks emphasizes that without a research plan, practitioners cannot accurately monitor, track, measure, or evaluate their public relations programs.” Stacks is quoted in the article, writing “think of research (and data) as a part of continuous feedback/feedforward function: research planning and accurate data lead to valid assessments and analyses of public opinion, program effectiveness, and in the end may help to predict behavioral outcomes.” Another strong piece to remember that Brunner brings up in Stacks’ work is the importance of ethics in research; that researchers need to keep in mind what type of information they are organizing and releasing and the reactions and consequences that come with doing so. I strongly agree with the statement Stacks gives about the feedback/feedforward function. Organizing and planning accurate research in a proper way can validate exactly what clients and organizations are looking for, while at the same time giving the media something to chew on as well. Yet ethics must be paid attention to because there are always one too many people trying to find a way of crossing those ethical borders, or point the finger of saying the public relations practitioner stepped over the line when discussing controversial topics (race, gender, religion, etc.).

 

Another imperative point was produced by an article written in the Houston Chronicle by Steven Symes. Symes brings up that research provides unbiased information, or information that is not swayed to one side or the other. Unbiased information is more desired because then neither the client/organization nor the media can point and say “you’re only saying this because you’re opinionated that way!” It actually provides clear back up without taking one side of an argument/point of view or another. Symes brings up another good point in his article, stating “If the leaders and public relations workers in a company were to rely solely on their own biased opinions of how the public views the organization, they would risk not really knowing if the organization’s public image needs to be improved.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. It is as if using one’s own biased opinion puts on a blindfold to what’s really going on.

 

Finally, Rose Ross of Omarketing says it short, sweet, and to the point. Ross (2010) poses the question “why use research?” and answers it with the simple response, “because research achieves amazing results in the press and gives substantial value beyond pure coverage.” Ross also points out what research can do for both campaigns and relationships with clients and media. “Clever campaign construction ensures it can yield high-quality leads” and with valid research comes said campaign construction. As far as relationships, Ross wraps it up with a well structured position: “most importantly, solid research findings make two crucial statements about your organisation. First, you listen to your customers, actual and potential. Second, you are a demonstrable thought-leader who can provide your own expert take on the results.” Showing your current and possible future clients that you flat out know what you’re doing and have the data behind you provides strength and support that is necessary in the PR world.

 

Research is the base in which the practitioner creates the stance of the organization/client. Without the facts, the numbers, the support to back you up, you have nothing to go off of but either biased information, or nothing at all. One must always remember, though, that the research must be legitimate, ethical, correct findings. Sources are quite often not reliable, and one small slip up can cause a world’s worth of looking down upon due to wrong research.

 

References:

 

Brunner, B. R. (2003). The importance of research to public relations. Review of Communication, 3(4), 419-423. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from the GVSU Library database.

Ross, R. (2010, January 4). Fresh Business Thinking, Information, advice, ideas, inspiration from practitioners. Fresh Business Thinking, Information, advice, ideas, inspiration from practitioners. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from http://www.freshbusinessthinking.com/articles_print.php?CID=19&AID=5215

Symes, S. (n.d.). How Is Research Important to Strategic Public Relations Plans?. Small Business. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/research-important-strategic-public-relations-plans-15586.html

Pre-PR Thoughts

To be completely honest, my pre-PR thoughts were/are that public relations were solely based on handling media and the method of communication between businesses and clients. Being a communication studies major with an emphasis in advertising and public relations, coming into college my thoughts were that that would be exactly what I would be doing; preparing big companies or franchises to address questions or comments or concerns, conveying the meaning behind the message the employer wants to give off to its clients, among other things. Am I positive that that is what public relations consist of? Not exactly. However, that’s what classes are for, right? 

After scanning through some of what the GVSU Library has to offer, I came across an article I believe not only speaks what I personally believed (but with just a little more flare to it) but what I have seen through countless hours of watching SportsCenter, since the sports media industry handles some of the more interesting attention in my opinion. Former executive vice president of public relations for communications giant AT&T, Dick Martin, writes that in the eyes of many CEO’s, public relations are all a matter of “message management”, whether it be covering controversy or portraying the brighter side of the company (Martin, 2013, p. 70). Martin goes on to cover New York Times reporter David Carr’s point of view that public relations, in the eyes of a CEO, are to do “whatever it takes to make reading the morning paper an indigestion-free exercise.” In all essence, if the company or client is under fire or looking like pig slop, it’s the job of a PR person to either do everything in his or her power to clean that up, or be responsible for why the company is in such mess in the eyes of the media. Unless, per chance, I completely misinterpreted this article.

 

However, on a possibly lighter hand, the PRSA, or Public Relations Society of America, released what they decided was a formal definition for public relations. The definition reads as follows: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” (Staff, 2012). This I could also agree with, as the face of most Fortune 500 companies and others are mostly well represented. The key word being ‘beneficial’, a good PR specialist can and will create not only level ground between business and the public, but find and create opportunities for both of which to advance as well.

 

One thing I came across that I did not particularly think about was the difference between an advertising agency and a public relations agency, or the simple difference between advertising and PR. An article on Forbes states that “PR agencies, as opposed to advertising agencies, promote companies or individuals via editorial coverage” (Wynne, 2013). Maybe something that just had not crossed my mind was that advertising companies use “paid media” or advertisements, where as PR agencies promote theirs through what Wynne defines as “free media”, such as “stories appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and TV programs.” The final part that I believe Wynne says well is that “articles or TV appearances in respected publications have the advantage of third-party validation and are generally viewed more favorably.” When an individual or organization is, for lack of a better phrase, thrown into a famous magazine or newspaper, the public seems to be more attracted and supportive if the story or article is positive, and vice versa.

 

Public relations consist of a much broader spectrum than I had anticipated. I can’t say I was definitively wrong with my pre-PR thoughts, but I also agree that I underestimated the grand views, both positive and negative, that surround public relations. After a bit more research, I am much more comfortable with my knowledge about PR.

 

References:

Martin, D. (Spring 2013). What’s Public Relations Really About?, 70-71. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b5aa505d-f6dd-4795-97b8-1f84b6fdf59d%40sessionmgr111&vid=1&hid=127

Staff, PRSA (April 11, 2012). Public Relations Defined: A Modern Definition for the New Era of Public Relations. Retrieved from http://prdefinition.prsa.org/index.php/2012/04/11/the-modern-definition-of-public-relations/

Wynne, R. (April 10, 2013). What Does A Public Relations Agency Do?. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwynne/2013/04/10/what-does-a-public-relations-agency-do/