Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hmph. Lorax, Smorax: My Favorite PR Movies

I was excited to see The Lorax last weekend. For some reason, at 2 years old, my oldest son took an odd liking to the book. It was very odd. He was more than excited to see a movie about his favorite book being released, and I was happy to sit with the family to view it.

However, midway through the movie in one of the most important aspects of the plot, I was absolutely mortified. In the scene where the Once-ler is tauting his successes making Thneeds and snubbing his nose at the world, the negativity that runs deep in our culture about PR people reared its ugly head. Now, I want to quote here, but in the interest of being absolutely correct, I won't do it. I will paraphrase and state that I'm fairly sure the words to the song were...the PR people were lying and the lawyers were denying. What? What?!

As a mother, I was thankful my sons, 4 and 2, have no clue what I did for a living or I teach for a living. I had images flash of them saying, "Mom, you lie?!" Or, "Mom, you teach people to lie?" Or, worse. One would say, "Mom, you are a liar." That's a declarative sentence. Oh, the horror.

All of this had me thinking of my favorite PR-related movies. If you haven't seen them, please take a moment to watch. There are great lessons to learn - both good and bad. Here are my top three, and if you dare keep going, I offer a quick little tribute to my PR collegues - Dr. Suess style.

#3 - Hancock (Image Repair)

#2 - Thank You For Smoking (Ethics)

#1 - Wag the Dog (Crisis Communication)

So, as a tribute to Dr. Suess, I offer the following:

I am PR. PR I am.
I do not lie. I do not cheat. I do not say what I don't see.
I strategize. I promote. I write.
Do you want coverage here or there?
Do you want coverage everywhere?
Tell me what you do. Tell me what is good.
I will get a reporter to cover it like he should.
We will work long. We will work hard.
We will get people to know who you are.
I am PR. PR I am.
I am good. I am right.
I can make relations with your stakeholders overnight.
They will be good, they will be real, they will keep you ever still.
So, do you want coverage here or there? I can get you coverage anywhere.
But, it will done good, and it will be done right.
Because I do not lie. I just enlight.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Managing Your Student Resources

I recognize being a student isn't easy. The demands for your time and talents can be overwhelming, especially for exemplary students. However, you have to remember you are in school for one reason, and it is to finish. You must manage your resources to ensure all efforts point you in the direction of graduation.

While your pockets might not be lined with lots of money, your life is rich with student resources. Tap into the right ones to ensure your journey to graduation is fast, fun and beneficial.

1) Instructors: Sometimes professors are viewed as distant, untouchable, unrelatable beings. We beam into the classroom, you soak up knowledge and we fade back into our offices. Don't buy into it. Many of us are open books. We love to share our experiences, hear about your challenges and work to ensure you are on the right path. Stop and talk to your professors. They have a wealth of knowledge from either their research or work experience. It all starts with a simple hello.

2) Student Organizations: There's nothing like hanging around with people who talk your language, share your dreams and do what you do. Student organizations are grounding points for students to gather, learn and share. I encourage everyone in the communications field to know and learn the following student organizations: Public Relations Student Society of America, National Association of Black Journalists, American Advertising Federation, Association for Women in Communications , National Communication Association Student Clubs, National Press Photographers Association, Radio Television Digital News Association , Society of Professional Journalists, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

3) Alumni: I want you to view this two ways: 1) Alumni who have graduated and can help you with career advice and job tips, and 2) Class alumni who have been in the seats of the classes you are taking right now. Now, for the latter, this is not to ask them for assignments. This is to ask them to help you study, buy a book or put the course work you might be studying into perspective. They've been there already; they have valuable knowledge to share, too.

4) Counselors: Sure. We all need academic counselors. However, sometimes we need more. Sometimes, things get overwhelming. In those moments, reach out to a counselor. At Howard University, we encourage students to get help from the Howard University Counseling Center. There's no reason to be ashamed about this one. Just do it.

5) Sleep: I'll be the first to admit I slept little in college. Between my internships, part-time jobs, classes and social life, sleep seemed like a waste of time. Back in my day, NoDoz was the thing to help. Now, I can't even begin to tell you the options. Most involve caffeine. Try some healthy tricks. Nonetheless, your body needs sleep. Force yourself to recharge your body and brain with a good night sleep or at least a nap.

6) Time: Spend it wisely. We all need moments to laugh and unwind, but don't spend precious time on Facebook that could be spent writing your essay. Don't spend time hanging around on SecondLife, when you could be doing something productive in real life. Stay in the present, and work for the greater good of your future.

7) Smartphones: Can we agree to use them constructively for school? As a college student, there are lots of applications you can use to help you. Best Universities had a list of the top 100 free iPhone apps for college students.

8) Laughter: Laugh. I mean really, really laugh. Enjoy one of those painful, belly hurting, eye watering, laughs with your friends. Do it often, even if it's at your own expense. You'll look foundly back at this time in your life the more often you share a good time with a friend.

Good luck, do well, and see you at graduation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

10 New Year's Resolutions for PR Students

'Tis the season to commit to improving. So, here are a few suggestions for all the promising public relations students still in school.

1. Read the Trades: The best way to learn what's happening in the public relations field is to read the top journals, blogs and trades. Try PRWeek, PR Tactics, PR Strategist, O'Dwyer's, Public Relations Review , Journal of Public Relations Research and PR Daily.

2. Invest in Your Wardrobe: Sure those designer jeans are nice and so is that shirt. However, you can't wear them to work. You need to begin to build your professional wardrobe one piece at a time. Start now.

3. Don't Burn Bridges: I've heard so many horror stories from students who forget that they must make as many connections as possible. Don't get anyone at your internships angry. You will need them for a reference, and stay on the good side of your teachers, counselors and deans. They often are the first to receive emails about jobs, internships and scholarships. You want them to think of you first when an opportunity arises.

4) Intern: Find an internship related to your field or interests. Some of my students graduate with more than five internships. Believe me. If you want to compete, you need to intern as much as possible.

5) Clean Up Your Online Image: You already know you need to do it. So, make 2012 the year when you commit to fixing that risky Facebook profile picture, you delete those not so professional tweets and you keep the blog about something other than your weekend exploits. Oh, and once you do it. Keep it clean.

6) Google Yourself and Set Up an Alert: You should always know what is being said about you. Have you googled yourself lately? Do it, and see what the results are. Now, decide what you can do to fix the results or maintain them. Also, set up an alert to ensure you know when something else is uploaded.

7) Create an Online Portfolio: Hopefully, you already have a great traditional portfolio filled with all of the right elements, right? Well, it is time to take advantage of technology and make an electronic one. There are so many options and reasons to do it. Start exploring the best options, and don't forget to try the free sites. Some have a money back guarantee.

8) Improve Your Writing: Yes. It is obvious, but you need to do it. Take a creative writing course. Read more. Write more. Get someone to critic your writing, and don't get upset by any negative feedback. Instead, take the criticism in stride and use it to improve.

9) Find a Mentor: If you don't have a mentor in the public relations field, find one. It is the best way for you to get career advice and guidance from an insider. Plus, consider getting a younger professional mentor and a seasoned one, too. You'd be surprised by the difference in views and opinions. You will get an understanding of how things work on the technician and management levels.

10) Create a 5-year Plan: There's no better way to meet your goals than by following a road map. Figure out what you want to do, and how you can do it. Be flexible, but be focused.

Good luck, and I hope you have a successful and prosperous 2012.

Monday, October 31, 2011

#Wisdoms - #Keep A Real Record of Your Work in Social Media

As many of us dabble in social media and others master the use not only personally, but strategically, I am always reminding my students how important it is to keep a record of your work. Now, this is a bit confusing. Once something - anything - is uploaded, you give up control and many argue it is there forever. This is true, because "it can be copied over and over, manipulated, combined and mashed up into any creative form or digital format. It can be forwarded to others and take on a life of it's own and never really ever be removed." The abscence of rules and respect has earned social media the label of the Wild Wild West. Just think of those celebrities who put up an embarrasing tweet only to remove it moments later, but it's too late. With millions of followers, bloggers and friends watching their every moves and taking screenshots, those seconds can hurt them for a lifetime.

While I want my work to impact the social media landscape like purple mountains on the horizon, I will admit I work to simply try to create somewhat of a teeny, tiny, tiny ripple in social media. I blog. I tweet. I spread messages about personal and work projects through Facebook. However, I am learning that you must keep a record, too, of what you say and do. For some of us, once our work is pushed out of our timelines or too hard to retrieve on Facebook pages, it is gone. Therefore, you have to pause to copy your online work offline. I did it recently for the #wisdoms I place on Twitter in 2011. I regret these are not all of them. Since I'm not a celebrity, there was no one waiting in the wings to record my every move. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy them.

My #record of my #wisdoms...

It's not the type of bag you put your candy in, but the candy inside the bag. It's the same way with people. Happy Halloween. #wisdoms

Are you hiding behind a mask? If so, take it off. Be bold, and show the world who you really are. #wisdoms

2 steps forward but 1 step back is still 1 step forward. #wisdoms

Nostalgic but prophetic words: "I yam what I yam." - Popeye. http://bit.ly/vZXUpF (Watch Popeye - Robin Williams- Sing the tune) #wisdoms

If your client is a ladybug without spots, don't buy black paint. Figure it out. Promote her specialties/uniqueness. Make it work. #wisdoms

I dare you to share an idea with someone. You'll surely make it better through hard work and a good collaboration. #wisdoms

Be your own inspiration. When others are your muse, you are forced into their definition of success. Create your own, and go for it. #wisdoms

Engagement in #PR isn't a one time thing. It should be the start of a relationship between you and your audience/reporter/blogger. #wisdoms

Expect the unexpected. Then plan for it. #wisdoms

There's noting better than tasting the fruits of your labor. Yum. #wisdoms

Success is defined in many ways. Regardless of how you define it, u must set goals, create a plan + make it happen. #wisdoms

Do you live by the 5Ps - proper preparation prevents poor performance? I try to do it. #wisdoms

Ambition is not learned. It is a trait. I've seen it in some, and it never dies. They are the ones that succeed no matter what. #wisdoms

Just keep trying. #wisdoms

New school: Everyone gets participation ribbon/Old school: Leave w/ nothing. Feast on defeat. Return meaner/stronger/ready 2 win. #wisdoms

Study their strengths and weaknesses, and when the time is right, get in there, play and win. #wisdoms.

You gotta work to work it out. Start today. #wisdoms

We share too much as a culture. I remember when privacy was understood and not selections on settings menu. Bring back old school. #wisdoms

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. #wisdoms

If you are unhappy, unfulfilled or uncommitted, you should look inside for a change, and not necessarily at changing your job. #wisdoms

Before I begin, I want to share a sentiment from an email sent earlier to a student. Your 9to5 shouldn't define you. It is a part of you. #wisdoms

Best thing about your 20s? You feel invinceable. Worst part of your 20s? You feel invicible. Be careful. Be smart. #wisdoms

*Image Credit
** My wisdoms are information from the heart and those I heard or believed as I live my life. Perhaps, for some attribution might be needed, but I don't think so.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Couple Who Cries Media Wolf

I purposely waited a while before writing this post. It's been knocking around in my head for a few weeks now. But, I needed to see how this was really going to end.

When I first heard the husband of Real Housewives of D.C. Michaele Salahi's tearful cries for help in finding his "kidnapped" wife, I was immediately worried. How could this happen I thought? Did someone make good on the death threats? Worse, could this happen to me one day? Could I leave home for the hairdresser, and well, never come back?

Then, I paused and thought for a minute. Is this another "publicity stunt" from the Salahis? Is Tareq, the husband, in on it? Or, this is a horrible crime in the making? I was reminded of the many stories of the two alleged "White House party crashers." Their appearance at the State Dinner rocketed the “The Real Housewives of D.C” reality series into the forefront of many of our minds and television schedules, and it made them the newest pseudo reality star celebrities. The massive amounts of news coverage that followed was staggering, and as is the case in any crises, the blame game started and people fell like dominos, most notably Social Secretary Desiree Rogers. Although a horrible situation and one that could have spelled disaster (i.e., uninvited guests close to our beloved President), it became a platform for the Salahis to make the rounds on most major news shows, including the daily morning shows. And, it was also fodder for the late night talk shows and birthed the Saturday Night Live skit below.

But, was this different? Suddenly, I was reminded of Michaele Salahi's short stint in Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. She allegeedly came to rehab, ah, without an addiction. Strange, right? Clearly, this should have been discussed with producers prior to signing the contract, or getting on the plane, or checking into the center, or, well, you get the point. Controversy brewed following this situation, too. Her mother came to her defense and noted her appearance wasn't about an addiction, but her need to cope with the aftermath of the above mentioned fiasco. Hmmm.

So, here I was listening to Tareq and wondering what to think. Was he crying wolf? I wasn't alone in this thought. Again, the media questioned whether it was a hoax. It turns out Tareq was wrong. His wife wasn't kidnapped. She is/was with her new alleged lover and had simply left her husband and possessions to do it.

I teach my students about the need for PR professionals not to bombard news outlets with pseudo events. They must work to create meaningful news and only present newsworthy topics, people or events to the media. Why? Our lives are filled with media "noise." We consume information virtually every waking moment of the day from our radios, televisions, iPads, smart phones, billboards and other sources. As PR professionals, we must strive to release information worthy of consumption, because so much of our precious news time is fractured with salacious, tabloid-worthy news, instead of those things relevant to the health, wealth and safety of Americans.

Hopefully, the next time Tareq or Michaele decide to contact the media they won't get past the gatekeepers, what few are actually left. Hopefully, there will be something more substantive on the media agenda that day. Hopefully. In the meantime, it should be a lessen to PR professionals not to have your organization crying wolf in every press release or media pitch. Be cautious about contacting a journalists or blogger for coverage. You don't want to be the Salahis of PR.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Siesta? - Can't Social Media Never Sleeps

As a college professor, I always dreamed of summers off. I pictured myself relaxing, watching television, hanging out with family, going to the beach and just enjoying the lazy days of summer. This, my friends, is not the life of a young, aspiring tenure-track professor. I work hard in the summer. I work full days on many research and work projects. I am especially busy because I've decided to engage the use of social media for many of my projects.

I'm the co-editor of HBCU Experience - The Book with Howard University alum Christopher Cathcart. We engage those interested in the project via our web site (www.blackcollegebook.com) , Twitter using @HBCUbook and on Facebook at HBCU Experience - The Book. It's nearly a daily drum beat to grab attention, get followers and engage our potential supporters and writers. We've found many friends in the HBCU social media community who give us support and spread the word, including @HBCUDigest and @HBCU_Lifestyle.

Oh, and I also taught a social media class in the spring, which really gave me a greater understanding of social media. It is also the reason I am presenting at the 97th Annual National Communication Association conference in November 2011. I'm sitting on a panel titled "Demystifying Voices: Running towards and not away from Social Media in the Classroom." It is also the reason I am helping to organize the first annual Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop being sponsored by Howard University and Bowie State University. It is set for September 29-30, 2011 on the campus of Bowie State University. This will be an affordable, engaging and very practical introduction into the world of social media provided by practitioners, students and academics. You can follow our progress on Twitter @smtechconf2011 and on Facebook at Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop.

With the social media conference, we've just started to set up the social media accounts. It's easy to set things up, but it's the engagement of the world that is the larger hurdle. I've learned to cross promote using the various outlets for myself, and I plan to do the same with the conference and book projects. For example, you can see my Twitter feed is on my blog, and it is also present on my LinkedIn account. I get it, but it's not easy to get the exposure you want overnight. There's lots of advice out there, and it's mind boggling to figure out which advice to take. Mashable once noted there was over 15,700 social media experts on Twitter. Social media experts, a controversial label, offer contradictory advice, and it's hard to even know who is correct.

What I have learned is that you need daily, engaging content. To me, this is the most important aspect of social media. You must provide daily content that people want to read, hear and see. If you don't do it, than you will be a faint whisper in the wind that people will soon forget.

So, I'm back to my busy summer schedule. I'll be writing, researching, tweeting, posting and updating until the first day of class and beyond. Godspeed to us all.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

18 Serious Things to Do If You Graduate College Without a Job

You spent four, maybe five, years in college, and when you graduated, you didn't have a job. This is not what you expected, right? You stayed up late, studied hard, followed directions, sacrificed and took out loans - lots of loans. Where is the pay off? Don't worry. It's coming soon.

Graduating without a job is tough. It's happens to a lot of people. Heck, it even happened to me. The worst thing to do is worry. The best thing to do is make getting a job your new job, and perhaps, follow my advice below:

1) Look Over Your Resume. I've had several students tell me no one is responding to their resumes, and after one glance, I can see several reasons. Whether you have grammatical or stylistic errors, a lack of details, poor design or another challenge, have a professional you trust offer you some constructive criticism.

2) Redo Your Cover Letter. The generic cover letter won't do anymore. Spend some time getting the proper name of the contact who will read your letter. Be sure to tailor it to the job, and please don't simply rehash your resume. Tell the reader something about you that's not obviously understood from your attached resume.

3) Reach Back to Old Contacts. You went to several networking events and had guest speakers in your classes, right? When was the last time you sent an email to catch up? Do it. You never know what you might learn or what job tips await you.

4) Go to New Networking Events. As a new graduate, it's time to get yourself out there and network as a real professional and not a student. Dress well, bring copies of your resume and be ready to impress everyone in the room from the people at the registration table to the hosts.

5) Connect with Your Mentor. If you have a mentor, this person is committed to seeing you succeed. Ask your mentor out for a cup of coffee and discuss ways to get a job, stay busy and distinguish yourself from the crowd.

6) Read the Trades. When you get an interview, you need to be able to speak the language of your industry. You need to know what's happening and be able to have an intelligent conversation about it. The best way to gain knowledge is by reading your industry's trade magazine.

7) Use Social Media and the Internet. What's the point in having a LinkedIn account if you don't use it to connect with employers and other job seekers? Why follow friends on Twitter when you can follow companies and experts who can give you some good information? Use social media to your advantage. Also, spend time looking directly on the "job" or "careers" sections of company websites, instead of relying on searches or other job websites.

8) Ask for an Informational Interview. If you like a company, don't hesitate to ask for an information interview. It's a good way to get in the door and make yourself known to the very people who can place you in a job. It also shows you are committed and want to work.

9) Contact other Recent Graduates. Most entry level jobs are ripe for professionals with one to two years experience. Your former classmates are in those jobs, and some of them may be ready to move to the next job. Contact them to see if they are planning a move or know of others who are doing it. You might learn about a job even before it's listed.

10) Reach Out to Recruiters and Headhunters. These professionals have the unique job of being employed to find people like you. Get to know them and make sure they have everything they need to get you in the running for an open job.

11) Email Your Career Counselors and Professors. Other than your parents, no one wants to see you employed more than your professors and career counselors. We've helped nurture you, and we want to see you land your first job. We also have lots of contacts and people who reach out to us about jobs. Be sure you are on our radar and our email lists.

12) Reconnect with Your Internship Coordinators. If you did well at an internship, chances are your boss remembers you. It's also a chance your former boss has a job opening. Send an email to reconnect. You might just have perfect timing.

13) Develop a Portfolio. What makes PR students from Howard University special is each has a portfolio with their best work, which they should show at job interviews. Develop one and be sure it has a cross section of your work. This will set you apart from everyone else who just comes in with their resumes. You will be able to show them what you can do, instead of simply telling them about it.

14) Volunteer. Don't let there be a big empty time frame on your resume. Get out there and put your skills to good use at a local nonprofit, community organization or even church that might be in desperate need of some help. You'll keep your skills sharp and add some more experience to your resume.

15) Intern. If you thought your interning days were over, well change your mind. You can get paid internships as college graduates, and many companies use this time as a probationary period to check out how you perform. If you are offered one, take it. It could be the precursor to your new job.

16) Hyperlink. We are in the digital age. Be sure to make your resume dynamic. If you worked on a new website, insert a hyperlink. If you developed a new video, insert a hyperlink to it on YouTube. If you developed a new brochure, insert a link on Google Docs. Make it easier for the people reviewing your resume to be impressed by you and your work.

17) Clean Up Your Online Persona. Someone is probably going to find you online before they even call you in for an interview. What will they find? Be sure what you present online passes my M.O.B. test. Negative content can cost you an interview now or even your job later.

18) Be Flexible. Many people will disagree with my last statement, but do not wait for your dream job. If it's your dream job, it's probably the same one thousands, if not millions, of others are waiting to get. So many have their hearts set on the media, entertainment or fashion industries. They are closed networks and tough to easily crack. It's possible, but tough. Set your sights on something more attainable, and work tirelessly to connect with those who can get you in the door of your dream company.

Good luck.