Four PR skills no one can make do without

The end of the semester has crept upon us…well, not really, I’ve been counting down the days, but here we are with only one week left in campaigns. Only one week left in undergrad for that matter, since I finish with EVERYTHING next Thursday. And only 22 more days until I graduate from LSU‘s Manship School of Mass Communication. Wow, the last four years have really flown by. Is it already time to move on from our difficult campaigns into the real world? Just yesterday I was agonizing over writing leads and features in my media writing class!

Working with the amazing Prelude Public Relations team and Louisiana Delta Service Corps has been such a great experience for me. I’ve learned a lot in my last semester, and I hope to carry with me the new skills and expertise I’ve gained. I’m sure if you searched Google for a list of necessary public relations strengths, you’d get a myriad of different answers. The following are just a few skills that I’ve found essential for success:

Cooperation: Working with five other girls was hectic, confusing and downright frustrating at times. But at the same time, I’ve never laughed so much at dumb jokes or my own mistakes as I did we these girls. Learning to cooperate with group members and to be helpful and flexible for others has done a great deal for PPR. Cliche as it may sound, these girls have become like family to me. While not all situations will allow the sort of bonding we created, cooperation is still an integral part of any project.

Establishing an online presence: I gained experience in posting for LDSC on Facebook and Twitter, and realized that it’s actually a little harder than you might think to grab someone’s attention on a social media site. I also began to understand this concept on a personal level, through this blog. Whether establishing yourself or an organization, getting your name out there is key in audience recognition.

Think outside your organization: We knew exactly who LDSC wanted as corps member applicants. In order to be successful and reach that audience, we had to think about who wanted LDSC. Analyzing what we thought our audience would want to see (with the help of a survey), we realized that social media interaction and free food were our best bets in attracting our target audience to our event.

Professionalism: Possessing and utilizing a fundamental competency in professionalism really will go a long way. From appropriate business attire to confirming meetings or appointments to sending a thank you note after an interview, this public relation skill is often brushed aside. Remembering the smaller details of looking someone in the eye when speaking or shaking hands will resonate with an individual and will profit a business professional greatly in the long run.

After graduation, I will begin working full time as an Assistant Account Executive at Otey White and Associates, an advertising/public relations firm here in Baton Rouge. To learn more about me or my life after LSU, follow me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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The Value of Social Media

In the past week, I feel like I’ve been bombarded with the use of social media. Not so much my own use (although that happened too), but an organization or company’s use. I knew that social media was growing in importance, but my eyes have really been opened.

Last Wednesday, I attended a practice lecture for an LSU graduate student before her interview at another college. Her entire lecture what about social media– hte definition of social media (as she used it), the differences in social media in the past and now and the influence of social media. I found the lecture quite informative and relevant to our recent experiences with Louisiana Delta Service Corps.

Relevant how? Well, in the past few months, my campaigns group, Prelude Public Relations, has been working with LDSC to complete an awareness campaign for the nonprofit organization. Our contact has been the wonderful Executive Director Betsy Irvine (to learn more about Betsy, click here). She put us in touch with Program Director Lisa Moore Teer, who is in charge of, you guessed it– social media. Lisa was hesitant to release the passwords to LDSC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, so we were back in square one. If only Betsy and Lisa could have been present for that lecture, maybe then they’d understand why we so desperately needed access to those accounts. PPR was forced to make additional accounts without LDSC’s knowledge. Don’t worry, we got it approved by our professor first.

So, why should we care so much about social media? According to the lecture I listened to, it’s because people are almost always connected to some form of social media. Between smart phones and laptops, it makes sense.

The point I’m trying to make is this: if we could get LDSC to understand how important and effective social media is, then maybe they would grant us access and our campaign would finally take off. So that’s just what we did. Elaina took a trip down to New Orleans with Betsy and our filmographer to visit one of the partner sites. While on the trip, Elaina mentioned that if we could use LDSC’s social media, we could reach many more members of the target audience. I’m not sure exactly what was said, but the end result is exactly what we needed: WE GOT ACCESS. I wish I could show you the tragedy that was LDSC’s social media accounts before we took over. The twitter was unsearchable, had only 4 tweets and the last update was in November. And it was about doughnuts. The Facebook page was a little better but had very few “likes” and only a couple of posts. Check out the new and improved Facebook and Twitter pages to see how far we’ve come!

Want to learn more about me and my last two months as a Manship student? Find me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Wait, I actually LEARNED something?

Fourteen days have passed since my blog first discussion of “THE Event,” and things have progressed nicely. Sometime last week, Prelude Public Relations learned that our venue of choice, the Holliday Forum at the Manship School of Mass Communication. At that point, we were sort of lost. Well, not lost, we still had the LSU Union, but we weren’t sure we wanted to host our event there. The Union sort of requires you to jump through too many hoops– must be a student organization, must be an event that falls under certain criteria, must use Union catering…the list goes on. Although we have a fairly moderate budget, we want to conserve what we can for our organization, Louisiana Delta Service Corps.

So, at that point, we were back at square one. Elaina, KK, Grace, Heather and I were meeting at the LSU Union one morning last week, and out of nowhere, a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) struck me. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I work as a student ministry intern at St. Alban’s Chapel on campus. We host a lot of other student groups at St. Alban’s, so I thought Fr. Drew would be more than happy to allow us to host our event  in the church common hall. I called the church, and after one date conflict, we picked a second choice date and our event was set in stone. It’s such a relief to finally have everything nailed down, or almost nailed down.

In the past few weeks, I’ve really recognized the importance of planning ahead. Because we learned early on that we would not be able to use the Holliday Forum, we were able to act quickly enough to find a new venue in time to implement changes on our print materials. Luckily, we were all on top of everything and the changes were made easily and seamlessly. In one of my other classes, I started studying for our midterm quite a bit in advance, and I was able to help a friend with a problem the night before the test because of my advance preparation. Not only am I learning public relations skills, but also life skills that will help me succeed in the long run– especially since I’m the biggest procrastinator you’ll ever meet. I guess my mom knew what she was talking about when she told me to pay attention in school and learn something about life while getting an education.

To learn more about my journey through my final semester in the Manship School, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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THE Event.

After just a week since my last post, I didn’t think I was going to have much to write about. On the contrary, a lot has happened. Although our group has only met twice since, I can honestly say that we’ve accomplished way more than I expected. I can’t say enough how impressed I am with my girls, and it only continues to get better.

In the past week and a half we have made great strides towards nailing down our event. On Monday, four of our team members met with the executive director of Louisiana Delta Service Corps, Betsy Irvine at Highland Coffees to discuss the dates that would work best for her.  You can contact Betsy by clicking here. I’ve quickly learned that having a director that’s easy to work with makes my job (and Prelude PR’s job as a whole) so much easier. Betsy is very open to new and different ideas and quite flexible with our schedules, making it simpler for us to implement concepts into our event.

So, I keep talking about this event in terms of, well “the event,” which probably isn’t very helpful. The event that Prelude PR is planning and hosting for LDSC will be an informational meeting for students in the Baton Rouge area to learn about the organization and hopefully recruit a few future corps members. We’re still ironing out some of the smaller wrinkles but I feel quite relieved that the big things are mostly taken care of. Whoa, not quite all of them though– we’re still waiting to hear back from the venue about whether we got the booking for our desired date. How could I have (almost) forgotten such a big detail? Elaina Mitchell, our Event Director, has been working tirelessly to book our venue, to no avail…yet. So now we wait to find out, and we’ll lean on our back up if it falls through.

We’ve also discussed the possibility of having a highlight video for LDSC made. We want something that can be used during the event as well as for later events, or possibly on the website. Because LDSC is a nonprofit organization, we want to use as little of our budget as possible, conserving our funds for something like hiring an intern when PPR is no longer working for the agency.

I learned something new about budgeting recently– in class actually. I’d never thought reserving a certain portion or percentage of a budget for last minute fixes, unexpected problems or unavoidable circumstance changes. Personally, I have savings for that sort of thing in my life, but applying that to the PR world had never really occurred to me. In my mind, I guess I just always picture everything in event planning to run smoothly and go off without a hitch. Obviously it doesn’t always work out picture perfectly, and I’m glad to have this little nugget of wisdom to tuck away for future occasions.

With the informational meeting/event coming together nicely, I feel like I can finally breathe a little bit. I completely trust in my team, and I know our event is going to be a huge success.

To learn more about me and my journey through my last semester in the Manship School of Mass Communication, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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Falling Into Place

It’s been nearly three weeks since my first post, and in the twenty days that followed my last offering, a lot has changed, and a lot has come together.

It seemed that in the first week after we met our PR teams and learned which organization would be our client, there was a mad rush to get everything done. Well, not everything, but at least the preliminary stuff. We scheduled our first team meeting right after class. We met with the executive director of Louisiana Delta Service Corps, Betsy Irvine (contact Betsy here), 5 days later. We drew up a letter of agreement, decided on the name Prelude Public Relations and designed our company logo. Then came the enormous task of our research synopsis– more on that later. It seemed that work for campaigns was consuming all of my time. My friends even asked where I had been and why I was gone from the house so much.

Somewhere in the midst of all of our meetings and the writing and the madness, I stumbled upon a job. This isn’t just any job, however, it’s the PERFECT job. It’s exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I had to take it. For now, it’s a volunteer position, but I work one day a week at the Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge Outreach Center at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. My father passed away after battling his recurrent cancer for over four years. This job fell into my lap, and I know that it’s just the place I need to be.

I also started another volunteer position, as an assistant coach for Girls on the Run of Greater Baton Rouge at the University Lab School. I help teach eleven 3rd and 4th graders the importance of being healthy, joyful and confident through fun, running based curriculum. I adore kids and running is more than just my exercise, it’s my outlet…it’s hardly a job for me, it’s in every way the place I need to be.

Oh, did I mention that I also work two other jobs? I’m a student ministry intern for my church, St. Alban’s Chapel, and I’m a sales associate at a local boutique, Vertigo Clothing. Obviously, I’m stretching myself pretty thin, but it keeps me honest.

Here’s the good news: the other PPR girls and I have been working extremely hard, and I feel like we’re ahead of the game. We try to meet at least twice a week, but usually it ends up being more like 4 times a week. Believe me, I am not complaining. The intensity of the determination I’ve witnessed among these women is incredible, and it has allowed me to do all of the things I’ve discovered that I need this semester.

Back to the daunting research synopsis– when it came time to actually get down to business and compose our first large document, I was overwhelmed. As writing director for PPR, I was assuming that I would be responsible for drilling out all 10 grueling pages of research analysis after Grace (our research director) handed over her work. Wrong. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that’s not how PPR rolls. We divided the research tasks among our group members, a few were responsible for combing through LDSC’s existing research while others created a survey and still others analyzed results and narrowed our target audience. Each member wrote about her findings, and sent me their findings. I edited each piece put everything together in a coherent and straightforward synopsis, and posted my draft on our PPR GoogleDocs.

I’m not gonna lie, it took me a good amount of time, but at least I didn’t have to do alone. My hope for this campaign is that things continue in the same manner. We each have one another’s backs, and we are understanding and empathetic when another team member has another engagement. It’s a team effort, and it’s all falling into place.

To learn more about me and my hectic everyday life, follow me on Twitter (@embent), FaceBook or LinkedIn.

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like…

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like…Campaigns! I can’t believe my last semester is finally here, and with it, my capstone course. Like many of my classmates, I’ve heard the horror stories of campaigns, the ones with the two slackers in a group of six, and I’ve heard the stories of the perfect group, with every member devoted to the project and determined to succeed. I’m excited for what this semester holds for me, and for my fellow group members.

Our group of six girls had our first meeting on Sunday evening, and I could already tell that we were off to a great start. Everyone was so focused and ready to get started on learning about our client, Louisiana Delta Service Corps.  We discussed some of our concerns for the project we were about to take on, and compiled a list of our questions for our first client meeting. We learned a lot about our organization before our initial meeting with the executive director, to be held the next day. The organization “partners with nonprofits, community and faith based organizations, public schools and government agencies to help build safer, smarter and healthier communities” (as expressed in the organization’s mission statement). Louisiana Delta Service Corps is an AmeriCorps program, and is fondly referred to as the “PeaceCorps of the Delta.”

On Monday afternoon, the six of us were pleased to meet Betsy Irvine, a delightful lady with a big heart for service. She spoke highly of the volunteers (corps members) who dedicate a year of their lives to service in our state, and described to us the importance of revealing what she called “the best kept secret.”

After our enlightening meeting with Ms. Irvine, our team stayed to discuss the new information we’d gathered. Again, I was astonished at how quickly and efficiently our group were able to accomplish a number of tasks. When I left our meeting nearly two hours after it began, I was exhausted, excited, and relieved all at once– if you could imagine that.

On Tuesday, when we learned that our class was cancelled, my group immediately decided that it would be beneficial for us to use our class time to meet and make some decisions regarding our objectives for our client and details for our public relations firm. We chose Prelude Public Relations, which is fitting, as this company shall be our introduction to the real situations of the media world, as well as the beginning of many connections and contacts for all of us. We narrowed down the design details so that our design director, Gabrielle, could work up a few drafts for us to choose from, and completed our list of objectives so that I could complete the letter of agreement between PPR and Louisiana Delta Service Corps.

I am beyond impressed by the effort and dedication already displayed by all members of my group, and I look forward to an exciting semester working with each of these women. It’s beginning to look a lot like…fun!

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