A Little Birdy Told Me…Vacation Edition

Happy holiday week, everyone! It’s been a little quiet on the ol’ blog here because I am getting ready for a vacation visit home to Minnesota. It’s also been busy at work with the end of the fiscal year coming up and new fiscal year planning on the horizon.

So, moving forward on this blog, I may only post occasionally instead of regularly as I had been, and I’ve come to accept that. I’d rather post content of value that I put some thought into, rather than posting just to post. But in the spirit of sharing some fun stuff I’ve found amusing, I wanted to leave you all this week with a few gems that I hope you enjoy as well—have a great week!

Ron Burgundy on Twitter?

Not only is there an Anchorman sequel coming out but Ron Burgundy has taken to Twitter as well—oh, happy day! It’s a clever marketing approach, especially with how people like to “connect” with fictional characters on social media these days. I wonder if this means that #ilikescotch and #baxter will start trending?

Fun for Agency Folks

I’m not much into Tumblr myself but often find pages that I get sucked into because they’re funny as hell, like “99 Problems and a Pitch Ain’t One.” The humor may be lost on anyone who hasn’t worked in a PR agency (or an agency in general), but it’s pure comic gold for those who have shared in that experience. Be sure to bookmark this link for a few minutes of the giggles next time you’re stuck working until 9:30 p.m. for a West Coast client.

We’re Not Young parody

What was meant to be a nice little ditty about a carefree lifestyle aimed at young people who want to buy a new car quickly turned me into a bitter thirty-something. I’d cringe at the sight of the commercial and wanted to shout at those young people—what about your mortgage payment? How much vacation time do you have? How are you affording these new cars and taking time to shoot fireworks at night?

Thank you, Yahoo!, for making a parody video that shows the reality of not being young, which is the reality for many of us. It’s not that we’re unhappy and bitter all the time, it’s just that we live in the real world where you have to pay for that new car and feel the hangover a little more when you stay out all night shooting off fireworks. Oh, the humanity…

Hope you have a great week– share any links or posts you found amusing as well :)

May 23, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . social media. 1 comment.

Tales of Media Relations

Here is another entry in a series of stories about my experiences working in public relations, and more specifically, in media relations. The names of clients and products have been changed to protect the innocent, but the facts remain the same.

Some tales may be good; some may be bad; and some may be ugly. But, like Aesop’s Fables, each tale ends with a valuable lesson I learned as a young PR professional. I hope you enjoy these and learn something from my experiences a well!

Picture it: Philadelphia, 2007, a young Senior Account Executive is presented with a sticky situation when a reporter covering a Hispanic disease-awareness event becomes critical of the event sponsor and lack of Hispanic community members in the audience…

Oh crap, why does this have to happen now? thought the young SAE.

She was still relatively new to the agency and was assigned to the Hispanic disease-awareness account because she was bilingual and worked in a Hispanic nonprofit organization as a communications director.

With no prior “agency experience,” this was an altogether new way of working and managing projects for the young professional.

And in all her previous media relations work, including the White House Press Corps, the SAE had never had to “mitigate” situations with the media like this before, especially with media from Northern New Jersey, where no one in the agency had any media contacts.

She approached the reporter, noticing the reporter’s furrowed brow during the event presentation.

“Hi there, Ms. Reporter, thank you again for coming to this event. It’s an important topic to talk about in the Hispanic community,” said the young SAE, remembering her media talking points.

The reporter cocked her head and replied, “I thought this was supposed to be about Hispanic Alzheimer’s disease awareness. But there are only six Hispanic people in the audience.”

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I understand that is a little perplexing,” the SAE replied. “We placed ads in the local Spanish-language papers and also in the area church bulletins where there are large Spanish congregations to encourage attendance. It might simply speak to the fact that there is still a lot of fear and taboo about Alzheimer’s in the Hispanic community”

“So why did (your client) sponsor for this event? Was it just to promote their drug?” the reporter retorted.

Jeez, that’s a little rude, the SAE thought to herself.

Trying not to lose her composure, the SAE explained to the reporter that the event was not a prescription promotion event. In fact, in no place during the educational presentation nor in the health fact handouts did any medication name appear.

Still, the reporter needled at the idea that the event sponsor had ulterior motives.

Okay, this woman has made up her mind about this event, and no amount of reasoning at this point is going to help, the SAE thought.

Time to think of another approach, maybe one from a source the reporter would trust.

“If you’d like, you’re more than welcome to talk to (a local Hispanic physician) who has helped the event sponsor create the educational materials used here,” the SAE offered.

“She is active in educating the Hispanic community about Alzheimer’s and knows this community very well.”

The reporter scribbled in her notebook without looking up and replied, “Let me see if I need another source. I might have enough for my story.”

Great, she’s already written the story, the SAE resigned in her mind. This isn’t going to go over well back at the office…

The next day, back at the office

The SAE decided she needed to review the situation with the account lead and get her feedback about how to follow-up with the reporter.

The account lead reassured the SAE that the physician interview was a good strategy.

“I’m sure the reporter had it all decided in her head how to write the story. The best we can do is offer to help with additional sources. Why don’t you give her a call and follow-up with her to see if she’s still interested,” the account lead suggested.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The SAE trudged back to her cubicle, dreading the phone call to the reporter.

It’s not like she begrudged the reporter for being cynical or for questioning the reasoning behind what was essentially a PR goodwill event.

It was more that the reporter didn’t care about hearing any other angle or source, besides a handful of event attendees and her own editorialization of the situation.

Still, the SAE picked up the phone and dialed the reporter’s number. It rang and went to voicemail, so she left a cheery “just following up” message for her.

A few hours went by and the SAE thought to try the reporter again. Again, no answer; straight to voicemail. She didn’t leave another message this time. I don’t want to come off as a stalker, she thought.

Instead, the SAE went about her work as usual, organizing the next event and getting various client materials ready.

Then, her phone rang and she saw that the area code was from the Northern New Jersey area.

“Hello, this is Krista,” she said.

“Hi Krista, it’s (the local Hispanic physician) calling. I just had the nicest conversation with Ms. Reporter from (a Northern New Jersey daily publication),” the doctor on the other line said.

Nicest conversation? the SAE thought to herself. She talked to the physician about the questions she was asked and how she responded. It all sounded perfectly benign, but she was still certain the reporter would stick it to the client somehow.

A week later…

Media monitoring found the story on the newspaper’s online version, and the young SAE read it with nervous anxiety.

But in the end, it was a perfectly nice article. It framed the lack of Hispanic community member attendance to the cultural sensitivity about the disease.

The physician’s quotes were all great, and she even quoted one of the other event site organizers who was familiar with the elderly Hispanic community.

Whew, that wasn’t so bad and it was good coverage, the young SAE thought to herself.

But then, there was a quote attributed to the young SAE in the article itself.

How nice, I was actually quoted….but I was identified as the client’s spokesperson? Oh crap, why does this have to happen now?!

Lessons learned:

  • Always be prepared for the skeptical media, no matter what your event is (even a Hispanic Alzheimer’s awareness event in Northern New Jersey)
  • Build relationships with trusted members of the community who can speak to your issue sincerely
  • Accept that you can’t write a story for the reporter; in the end, it’s up to them and their editors; your job as a good PR pro is to be as helpful, honest, and accurate on your part.

Any similar experiences to share? What would you have done differently if you were in that situation?

May 16, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . media relations. Leave a comment.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 5/7/12

Happy Friday, all! It’s finally a beautiful Spring day in Philadelphia, just in time for the many graduation ceremonies taking place for college students. I don’t know why, but I always have the feeling of wanting to play hooky this time of year, perhaps because the end of the school year is still engrained in my psyche. I should blame it on the “Senior Skip Day” phenomena. Does that happen to you in the Spring? Well, while we suppress the desire to leave work early, here are a few articles and posts of interest to share– enjoy!

Effective Higher Education Video by @gettysburg via @mStonerblog:

Working in higher education with students and alumni with limited time, I get the value of video in promoting important messages. Mallory Wood from the MStoner Blog wrote on her evaluation of a video Gettysburg College produced from a social media photo project with students. The end result is a very simple, short video that showcases what makes the college fun and engaging—the students and student life.

For students, this is effective because it is directly related to their lives now; for alumni, it’s a peek into the world of students today and perhaps even stir some nostalgia for what used to be. It also makes for an interesting way to crowdsource for content and include the target audience in creating the video content.

Seven Signs of an Unhealthy Corporate Culture by @jacksonwightman:

It’s been a while since I heard from Jackson Wightman, but this post is dead-on with his signature blogging style. Instead of simply listing what makes a health corporate culture and gushing about the poster-boy companies (like Google and Zappo), he paints a picture of the worst-case scenario of companies with really poor organizational cultures.

Seriously, if he is writing from experience with this list, that’s pretty scary! It just might make you appreciate your company’s corporate culture, even if you think it sucks, to think it’s not as bad as those listed in Jackson’s hall of shame.

Your Brand Needs a Social Media Value Proposition by @mikeschaffer:

It should go without saying, but all too often, companies and brands fail to remember the importance of the value proposition in social media. Mike Schaffer makes a good point with his post that in order to cut through the clutter, a real value add is necessary in order for consumers to feel connected to a brand on social media. Otherwise, the brand is just blowing smoke and further adding to the collage that is social media.

And if per chance you are at a loss for a strategic vision or goal, Mike also lists some common ideas to consider.

The Business of PR and Reputation Management via The Independent:

For those working in PR, it’s interesting to read about perspectives on the profession in other countries. The Independent in the UK offers this article about the business of PR and reputation management, as more and more corporate leaders, and not just celebrities, are seeking personal PR counsel.

The article makes a good point that the increasing need for personal PR for company leaders is merely a sign of the times, as corporate transparency is increasing as is the accountability for a company’s board and stakeholders. I’m really surprised to read an article like this where personal PR counsel professionals actually share some of the inner-workings of their strategies for companies and their leaders.

Feel free to share any articles you found interesting this week as well– have a great weekend!

May 11, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Alumni Relations, public relations, social media. Leave a comment.

I Get So Emotional

Yes, that is a reference to the Whitney Houston song. I loved that album when I was little– and by album I mean the cassette I listened to so much that the tape warped.

But I’ve had that song going through my head recently, as I recently completed a supervisory development course and just wrapped up a graduate course in facilitating adult learning.

Both courses brought up the idea of self-awareness and self-management with regard to emotions, mostly in the workplace, but also in the training or adult learning setting.

Not getting emotional from a managerial (or employee) standpoint is not always an easy thing to do.

Very rarely do human beings have an “Off” button they click when they step into the office.

Sometimes, getting emotional at work can be detrimental to a person’s professional career.

In fact, while working at a communications agency previously, it was written into my performance evaluation that I was “too emotional” at times, yet there was no definition of what that phrase meant.

It is a difficult order, being told to manage your emotions, when so much of what makes us human is our emotional ticker.

But by that same notion, businesses and companies cannot fully function if we are guided purely by emotional reactions to situations. At some point, reason needs to prevail.

For women in the workplace, there is more pressure to control our feelings and to hold back the tears if we feel our emotions getting the better of us.

So what do we make of all this emotional stuff?

In learning how to be an effective supervisor, my training colleagues and I went through the exercise of exploring emotional intelligence, a term made famous by Daniel Goleman with his 1995 Harvard Business Journal article.

Basic representation of Goleman’s Model

Put simply, the key to emotional intelligence lies in our ability to manage ourselves (i.e. our emotions) and our relationships with others.

I’m no stranger to emotional intelligence. I remember reading Goleman’s HBR article in graduate school. It all made sense, in theory…

But in practice, many communications professionals can find value in understanding emotional intelligence.

Our emotions will have an effect on how we communicate to others, so it stands to reason that many communications and PR professionals should have a good grasp of the concept of emotional intelligence.

The way my supervisory development course framed it, the four-part model can be thought of as a step-by-step process of gaining the emotional intelligence skills necessary to result in productive interpersonal communications and supervisor-employee relationships.

  1. Self Awareness – the first step is within the individual; recognize your own emotions, what sets you off, and how your emotions affect others.
  2. Self Management – a little harder than the first step is actively managing our emotional reactions so that they facilitate rather than interfere with the task at hand.
  3. Social Awareness – includes the ability to identify and understand another’s wishes, emotional needs and reactions, read situations, and demonstrate empathy.
  4. Relationship Management – is like the icing on the cake, if you get through the other stages, because it involves the ability to manage relationships, social interactions and service transactions. For those in supervisory roles, this includes interpersonal and cross-cultural communication, change management, influence, conflict management, team building, motivate and managing diversity.

This is not to say if you are emotionally intelligent that you will automatically have a productive team or clear communications. But it couldn’t hurt.

For those in the communications/PR field, emotional intelligence can help in how we work with our colleagues and clients. Imagine conducting an exercise on Self Awareness with a company CEO or a Relationship Management workshop with an account team.

Emotional intelligence is not the end-all, be-all of business communications. It’s more a method of organizing human emotions and utilizing them to their potential.

So maybe the key to emotional intelligence is not just controlling our emotions, but also understanding the right time and place to put our emotions to work for us.

That’s just my understanding of the emotional intelligence model. I would welcome anyone to share their experiences or interpretations.

What do you think? Is emotional intelligence a bunch of baloney or is there real value to the communications field?

May 9, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Career. 3 comments.

A Little Birdy Told Me…week of 4/30/12

It’s Friday, yay! Hope the start of your May is going well. I’m glad to be back in the blogging saddle after a little bit of a hiatus. And speaking of saddles, I’ll also be watching the Kentucky Derby tomorrow afternoon and sipping on a refreshing Mint Julep. What a way to kick off the homestretch month before the start of summer. So, if you’re also enjoying a refreshing cocktail (or two) this weekend, here are a few posts of interest to read as well–enjoy!

Ditch the Corporate Speak from PR Writing by @ArikHanson:

I recently laughed out loud (yes, I mean LOL’d) at a press release sent by a former employer. It said so much and so little in two pages that it was clearly a case of corporate speak running over common sense.

Arik Hanson presents an interesting challenge to PR pro’s to take a stand against the over-use of corporate buzzwords in press releases.

I am guilty of committing many of those terms, as many of us are, as they’ve engrained themselves into the corporate dialect that many leaders just assume the common consumer/stakeholder uses them too. It’s more of a learning curve that PR folks need to catch their corporate clients up to speed on how to clearly communicate messages without muddying the waters with too much jargon.

Ten Most Censored Countries by @pressfreedom:

May 3 was World Press Freedom Day but not all the world’s press is “free”

This report from the Committee to Protect Journalists reminds us of the reality that many members of the international press face with limited rights as journalists or photographers. It is especially concerning since many of the countries listed are areas of civil unrest and who knows how much of the story is getting out to the world, such as in Syria

Lessons Advertising Can Learn from PR by Timothy Kane via @AdAge:

I did not expect to read this article in Ad Age of all places—from my experience, PR and advertising (or marketing) always battled over budget and were expected to “play nice in the sandbox” together. (Oh, how I hated that phrase, but that’s another topic.)

What this article does so well is help articulate an advantage of public relations- that of connecting and communicating with a community, which is directly relevant to the way social media works. Social media is more than just one-way communication of the brand to the consumer; consumers today want a personal connection or the ability to articulate what makes them prefer a product.

So, if this trend continues, and social communications makes a few in-roads for PR to have a seat at the strategic table, I think it speaks to a need for an integrated communications team composed of people from all communications aspects. I think we’re going to need a bigger sandbox!

Breaking Free of Patterns and Routines by @chrisbrogan:

Here’s a post that made me really think. Personally, I am a creature of habit, both at work and at home. I have my routines that comfort me because I know things get done when they work. But after reading Chris Brogan’s reflective post this week, it made me realize that I might also become trapped by those patterns.

It’s not easy to just say, “oh well, I guess I’ll change my pattern” because we’re human and some of those patterns are necessary (like law enforcement or utilities). However, that doesn’t mean we can’t think of creative ways to break up our usual patterns to see how it might positively affect our outcomes.

That’s a lot to think about and I appreciate Mr. Brogan for positing that consideration…I’ll see if I can get to pondering it outside of my pattern ;)

As always, feel free to share any links or posts you found this week as well. Have a great weekend!

May 4, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . journalism, public relations. Leave a comment.

PR Confessional: Pitching Crap to the Media

You can tell from the headline that I’m about to make a bold statement. But after reading Arik Hanson’s post on Monday that called out PR for perpetuating corporate-speak in press releases, I’m feeling a little sassy.

I’m about to confess something that I suspect every PR professional is guilty of at one time or another:

I have pitched crap to the media.

That’s right. I have pitched utter, complete crap that no one with a news hole the size of the front page would cover.

You can admit if you have done it too—I won’t judge.

Sometimes, we’re in a position where we have no say in what the client or company leader wants.

Sometimes, we don’t have the best material to work with and have to make lemonade out of lemons.

I got to thinking about this when fellow blogger Josh Brett wrote about the sins of marketing, communications, and public relations last year.

While I articulated an additional “sin” in the comments discussion, I found myself holding back from saying what I really thought was sinful—that of wasting the media’s time and the client’s budget by pitching crap.

This is an entirely subjective observation, of course, based on my previous PR work experience. But I have to believe that it has happened to more PR folks than they care to admit.

I first became aware of this trend when I started reading the Bad Pitch Blog. Think about it–if some pitches weren’t filled with crap, then what would this blog have to write about?

I also recall a conversation I had a few years back with a product manager of a Philadelphia-based cable company.

She and I were swapping stories about working in PR agencies, and she shared how a tech reporter once asked her why agencies pitch them crappy news ideas.  She told the reporter it’s because the client thinks they are special and the agency has to deal with it, regardless of how crappy it is.

Wow—that was not subtle at all!

So, is it wrong for PR folks to own up to the reality that they have to pitch crap news ideas every now and then to the media?

Or is this just a dirty little secret that gets swept under the rug while we go on with our busy lives in public relations?

Let’s be honest and first examine some of the possible reasons why PR folks pitch crap to begin with:

  • Perhaps a client thinks their product/service/leader is the greatest in the world and have an endless budget to tout it as such.
  • Perhaps a senior-ranking PR executive convinced the client that their product/service/leader is the greatest in the world in order to get more budget and billable hours.
  • Perhaps someone paid for research to show that the client’s product/service/leader is the greatest in the world and now the client is obligated to publicize those findings.

Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. What is crap to one person may not be crap to another.

But my question to this quandary has more to do with the PR professional’s responsibility when the client thinks their product/service/leader is the greatest in the world, even when it’s not, yet still expects the agency to pitch it to the media.

It is not an easy position to be in. PR folks still have to make a living, but where do we draw the line?

Perhaps this is illustrative of an educational gap between the client/company and the PR professional. Public relations is more than media relations, yet some people still think all we do is write press releases about anything and email them to reporters.

I would suspect that the knowledge gap at the root of some of these crappy pitch instances represents a challenge and opportunity for PR professionals.

It’s a challenge because it poses more work for the PR pro to have to educate their clients or company leaders about what is really newsworthy and worth their budget.

That may take some time, but it could be worth it if you consider the opportunity for PR to actually improve upon its own image by cutting down on the rate of crappy pitches that end up the butt of someone’s blog series.

There are a lot of really smart people working in public relations. Crappy pitches filled with too much corporate-speak does no justice to them nor to the profession.

I would up Arik Hanson’s ante of removing corporate jargon from press releases and add that PR folks should also ditch the crap.

So, that’s my PR confessional. What do you think? Anyone else want to get this off their chest?

May 2, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . public relations. 16 comments.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 4/9/12

Happy Friday, everyone! Spring is finally in the air and I’m getting antsy about staying indoors. I blame the reoccurring feeling on those days in grade school when our teachers would allow us to have class outside. I guess that’s why they invented laptops and wireless for the working population, so there’s nothing stopping me from doing so now! If you happen to be outdoors this weekend with your laptop or tablet in tow to catch up on your blogs, here are a few posts of interest to share–enjoy!

Creating Engaging Alumni Content by @oberlincollege via @BWF_Social:

Here is an inspiring video that had a significant impact on Oberlin College alumni by doing one simple thing—appealing to nostalgia.

Working in alumni relations, and being an alumnus myself, I have learned the value of nostalgia with connecting to alumni. It’s more than just tugging at heart-strings, but rather, it’s recreating the feeling that drew them to the institution in the first place. Because those feelings are so strong and often stand the test of time, even a simple holiday song with familiar images can strike a chord like Oberlin College’s video.  

Using Age as an Excuse to Excuse Social Media by @mikeschaffer:

I feel Mike Schaffer’s frustration—I am tired of hearing from other people that they are “too old” for social media. Social media does not have age restrictions! And if you take some time to look into it, many of these folks might actually find something that is of value to them. The oversaturation and pop culturalization of social media does not help this case, but Mr. Schaffer puts forward some creative counter-arguments if you are ever met with resistance or cynicism at the mention of social media.

Transparency in Leadership by @dorieclark via @danamlewis:

More and more, it is becoming apparent that transparency among leadership is a critical component. Dorie Clark’s post mentions this concept in the context of succession planning, but also with regard to crisis communications, which is helpful for public relations professionals.

Often, we have to be leadership coaches as well as communications coaches to our organization’s leaders. Transparency can be difficult at times for a company or a leader, but if it is really embraced as a tenant of the C-suite, it can be a powerful tool.

Importance of Media Training for Spokespersons by @narciso17 via @Shonali:

Here’s a post that gave me PR flashbacks—both good and bad! Narciso Tovar walks us through the nightmare media scenario of when a spokesperson flies off the handle and what to do in order to prepare for that case. It’s never easy with media training, and sometimes time does not allow PR folks that luxury. But there are plenty of other steps that can be taken to ensure that the company “face” is accurately representing the company, even when crises hit.

As always, feel free to share anything you found interesting, informative or funny! Have a great weekend :)

April 13, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Alumni Relations, public relations, social media. 2 comments.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 4/2/12

It’s Friday, yay! And for many folks, it’s a busy holiday weekend with family festivities and religious obligations. I have found my time a bit consumed by both a graduate course and a supervisory training course I’m taking. So, this blog has taken a bit of a backseat this week, but I promise to keep it going regardless of how often I post, nowadays. If you feel like catching up on some interesting posts this weekend, here are a few I still found time to bookmark this week– enjoy!

Young Alumni and Social Media by @mherek via @CASEAdvance:

Too bad I won’t be at the CASE Social Media conference later this month! I’ll miss out on Matt Herek’s presentation about using social media to engage with and work with young alumni…

But alas, Mr. Herek is generous with his post on the CASE Social Media blog describing some of the topics he’ll cover in his presentation. As I have just started using social media for alumni engagement, it’s good to read his points about how it can be used best (read: most effectively) for alumni. And it’s often not just using social media but making social content relevant to alumni, regardless of their age bracket.

PR Facepalm on Fake Award by @pitch360:

File this under the “Picard Facepalm” list of bad PR stunts. Michael Parks of Pitch360 brought to my attention this week how a blogger for Forbes unofficially anointed a pharmaceutical product the “Product of the Year.” Knowing what I know about PR, someone’s agency didn’t read into that distinction and saw fit to send out a self-congratulatory media announcement about it—and included the blogger who created the fake award!

So, that product has landed in the PR facepalm category for 1.) Promoting an unofficial award and 2.) Not checking the media list to see it would land in the originiator’s hands. I get companies want to promote their awards and recognitions, but please do some research before tooting your horn.

Unfollowing Yourself on Twitter by @PhilBaumann via @PunkViews:

I was pleasantly surprised to see Phil Baumann on Punk Views on Social Media this week.  I had crossed paths with Phil back when I was in the pharma PR business and a participant on the #socpharm weekly Twitter chats (which I miss dearly!) But alas, I was treated to a post by Phil with his signature sarcasm about the issue of people caring so much about Klout scores that they follow themselves on Twitter and carry on RT conversations with their own tweets.

It never even occurred to me that this was a Twitter “strategy” and to that end, I enjoyed the letter Phil wrote to himself about unfollowing himself. It’s a good way of showing you’re not taking yourself so seriously!

Never-ending PR Discussions by @jacksonwightman:

And my week wouldn’t be complete without more sarcasm from Jackson Wightman!

This post brought up the fact that within our PR professional bubble, we often like to eschew topics to the point that it seems almost futile to reach any sort of cohesive conclusion. Jackson speaks specifically to the top three discussions I’ve seen circulated on social media since my introduction to the PR social sphere about two years ago. It’s true—professional discourse is an important component to any industry, but what happens when it impedes our ability to focus on what is really important to our work?

Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday weekend! Feel free to share any interesting posts or articles you found this week as well :)

April 6, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Alumni Relations, public relations, social media. 2 comments.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 3/26/12

Happy Friday, all! Sorry I had to take a little break last week, but duties at the office made it impossible to share any content or even check my Google Reader. It was a great project to be a part of, albeit physically and mentally exhausting, but it’s good to get back into the swing of things this week. So, if you’re in the same boat as me and getting caught up on your Reader this weekend, here are a few articles of interest to share–enjoy!

Case Study on OxFam America’s International Women’s Day by @Shonali:

It’s always good to read positive case studies about good causes.  Shonali Burke never disappoints because not only does she do work for good causes, she also is a strong advocate for measurement of public relations and social media (folks should check out the #measurepr stream).

This week, Ms. Burke outlined her blogger outreach strategy for OxFam America’s International Women’s Day, complete with unknown factors and hurdles. But she does not despair and demonstrates how results can be possible if the right approach is applied.

Changing the Game of Alumni Relations by @alumnifutures:

Andy Shaindlin wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post touches on the issue of universities and colleges creating their own “online communities” when their alumni are already gravitating to popular social network sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Why add the extra layer if your graduates are already congregating online by themselves? More importantly, Mr. Shaindlin’s post asks the provocative question of whether or not these social alumni networks will render alumni associations from higher education obsolete.

It is an interesting discussion I’d like to follow and see develop, as I have grounded myself in alumni relations and understand the need to know where to meet our graduates in order to maintain those relationships.

Lessons in Good Customer Service from “Mamá” by @vedo:

Here’s a simple little story that packs a big wallop when it comes to understanding the basic tenants of customer service and communications. Richie Escovedo shares an experience at a restaurant in Spain where the hostess, who was simply addressed as “Mamá,” never thought their experience was good enough and went the extra mile(s) to make their dining as exemplary as possible.

This post reminds me that sometimes, it’s the simple things asking a customer/stakeholder what they want and also being keen to recognize when something is not up to par and adjusting as necessary. We can learn a lot from Mamá.

How WWE is Creating a Social Media Experience by @Mashable via @BrettRelander:

Do you know how I am spending my Sunday evening this week? If you answered “watching WrestleMania 28,” then you really know me well!

For anyone interested in seeing how a major entertainment corporation has successfully and seamlessly embraced social media as an integral part of its communications strategy, look no further than the WWE. Before you turn your nose up at that statement, I would invite you to read this post from Mashable and also check their links to other similar stories because they illustrate how the large company recognizes where its fans are congregating and is willing to make those means available for them to bring about a more comprehensive fan experience.

Did you read anything interesting over the past week? Feel free to share your links or posts as well!

And if you’re interested in seeing one of the best WrestleMania matches from a past, check this out- the match that started The Undertaker’s winning streak:

March 30, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Alumni Relations, communications, public relations, social media. Leave a comment.

Why I’m Glad I Worked in an Agency

There—I admitted it.

If you asked me how I felt about working in an agency about this time one year ago, the answer would have been different.

Back in 2007, when I started working in a full-service healthcare communications agency, specifically in the PR group, I didn’t know what to expect.

It took a few years of different projects and clients– some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t– for me to figure out that agency life wasn’t for me.

And that’s okay.

Some people are better suited for the constant change and customer service for the clients that is necessary for the agency setting. That just wasn’t for me.

But since I’ve changed back into an in-house setting—in a completely different industry and communications focus (a medical school alumni relations department)—I’ve come to realize something: I am glad I worked in an agency for the time I did.

I realize now that I learned some valuable lessons and practices that the agency setting imparted on me:

Interpersonal Skills 

Working within an agency, you have to work with and rely on lots of people—from the account team, to the traffic manager, to the creative director and graphic designer. It’s important to develop a rapport with these people and to navigate via interpersonal skills in order to get a project done.

Because of that experience, I am more cognizant of my interpersonal skills and identify how best to work with others.

Project Management

I have gotten a reputation as “the queen of charts” in my new job because for every project I work on, I have a project management chart to go with it. It’s ironic because if there was ever one thing I cursed the clients for, it was for the never-ending stream of Excel spreadsheets we had to draft and maintain again and again.

Now, I am using many of the same templates to ensure my projects are organized and my team is informed. How’s that for humble pie?


Remember how you had to prepare for anything for your client, especially when at an on-site meeting or when traveling? Just recently, I was with a marketing colleague for a film location scout with a production crew.  In addition to sending a summary email of our locations to the team beforehand, I printed copies of the schedule for everyone and also brought copies of our interview schedules in case we had some down time for a meeting.

And you know what? All of those copies came in handy! You can never be over-prepared for anything…

Measurement, measurement, measurement

I am so glad I had clients who harangued us constantly for benchmarks to accompany our strategy proposals. I used to roll my eyes if I had to benchmark or set metrics to one more tactic because it was an ongoing process.

However, working in a role that supports a fundraising capacity, I find myself constantly looking for ways to quantify and measure alumni relations. I have become the client asking my colleagues to help me set the metrics and benchmark my strategies.

As much as I was miserable at times in my agency life, I have really come to appreciate that experience because it has done me more good than I could have expected.

The lesson in all this?

Even a job you think you hate can actually be helping you. You just might now know it yet.

What do you think? Anyone else benefit from agency experience? Or have you had a job you hated but have come to appreciate after a career change?

Image courtesy of a very clever agency with a good sense of humor. 

March 14, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Career. 7 comments.

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