May 18 2010


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Last week Foursquare celebrated its 40 millionth check-in. As I was explaining geotagging, the next iteration of social media, to my client, he was befuddled.

If your client or boss is still on the sidelines of social media, share this video.

May 13 2010

Pill Empowerment

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Anniversary stories often are not that exciting. In fact, I’ve had reporters emphatically tell me, “I don’t write about anniversaries.”

However, some anniversaries are significant because of the impact they have had on our culture and lifestyle . In 2010, bubble wrap turned 50. Earth Day marked 40. The Blue Ridge Parkway celebrates 75.  Spanx cheers its 10th. (While I don’t believe thee modern girdle is advancement for women, Spanx are a technical achievement in under garment fabrics.) And the birth control pill commemorates its gold jubilee.

Barrels of ink have been spilled on the FDA’s approval of the birth control pill 50 years ago on Mother’s Day. In fact, some argue the invention of the pill is the most significant scientific advancement and social empowerment of the 20th century.

Journalists did not shy away from any of these anniversary stories. So why such animosity to other celebrations of history — say an institution turning 100? The 5th annual celebration of a community partnership. Or the 25th anniversary of a product introduction.

Most frequently, the pitch lacks context. What is happening around the event that you wish to publicize?  What impact has your institution, partnership or product had outside of the company you are representing? Have habits or attitudes changed? Why is the anniversary significant? What is unique about it? Or are there similar happenings that could be packaged to show a cultural impact?

The celebration of the birth control pill’s 50th, illustrates the elements of a good anniversary pitch.

1) Context: How does the company or product anniversary fit into the larger history? Was it ground breaking? First? Did it change habits or alter attitudes? What preceded your company or product and how did its introduction alter the landscape?

2) Milestones: What hurdles were overcome since the inception of the company or product? How can you quantify?

3) Impact: What other “firsts” were made possible or at least influenced by the company or product?

4) Future: What’s next? How will the product or company continue to affect the industry or consumer behavior?

5) Community engagement: How will you involve stakeholders in the celebration? What social media channels will you employ? Be sure to include hash tags (#50success) in your promotions and encourage tweeting from events.

Finally, if your company or product isn’t celebrating an anniversary, use cultural anniversaries like Earth Day or the pill to your advantage. A good example is “50 years of the pill. Bayer’s celebration celebration of women’s empowerment.”

The key to success is to think beyond the company or product’s history and to celebrate the impact on attitudes and behavior. Add a forward-looking angle, and you’ll increase the likelihood of media coverage.

Mar 19 2010

PR Career Building

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I recently spoke at a PR/Marketing/Advertising career panel at Georgetown University (before the Hoyas had their embarrassing loss to the Bobcats of Ohio U, where I completed my graduate work). Panelists, representing PR/advertising agencies and corporate marketing functions, were asked to define the profession and offer suggestions for developing a career. Here’s what I shared with the more than 50 students who attended.

Public Relations is: Communications in the public interest. Proactive and responsive communications. The responsibility to promote and protect your organization or a personality. The art of persuasion.

How to build a career?

1)    Identify your goals and be open to unplanned opportunities.

2)    Join a professional organization and one of its committees.

3)    Network.

  1. Practice your introduction. 15-20 seconds about who you are and what you do.
  2. Develop a set of stock questions. Standard: Where do you work?  What do you do? Have you been a member of this group long? Conversational: Could you recommend a book or blog that I should read to build my knowledge? Did you read about _____ story? The writer was very insightful. What do you think? I’m a (name your hobby) and always looking for new ideas. Do you know _____? What is the primary business challenge that you have to deal with? When in doubt: weather, traffic or travel.
  3. Distribute and collect business cards. If you are job hunting, ask for an informational interview and/or if they know 3 people you could call for an informational interview.

4) Have fun.

Mar 10 2010

Lack of Brains Hinders Research

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Yes, this headline was a question on the APR exam to define one of Lippmann’s barriers to communication(The answer is: Distortion due to compression).

When I started my blog last fall, I had intended to write more about the process of studying for the APR exam. Instead, I found my passion in writing about social media, crisis communications and current events.

Now that I have earned my APR, I am both relieved and excited to join this elite group of public relations professionals. Here are my lessons learned for the successful completion of the APR readiness review and computer examination process.

1) Be ready to make the commitment to read a lot (study guide, text books, articles, case studies) and to exercise the APR knowledge, skills and abilities in hypothetical scenarios.

2) Form a study group. You can meet in person or chat online (e.g. Google Chat). Invite APRs to your study sessions. Talk through every scenario in the study guide and your own case studies. Deconstruct case studies and rebuild them.

3) Embrace communications theory. It had been years since I thought seriously about diffusion theory and the Grunig models of activating publics. These and other theoretical concepts have helped make sense of the confusion surrounding social media, for example.

4) Research and measurement tied to objectives. Unfortunately, many PR operations often do not have sufficient budget for pre and post research or measurement.  Yet, these topics are a significant portion of the exam. Study up, and you’ll find new ways of thinking about how to incorporate research and measurement into your job with no or little budget.

5) Business literacy and ethics. Experience is the best teacher in these areas. If you haven’t worked for a publicly traded company or been faced with challenging decision making, seek out colleagues who have.

6) Sitting in front of a computer for 3 hours and 45 minutes was not as painful as I envisioned. There is plenty of time to read the questions and review answers if necessary.