Final Exam

 

Creating pieces for the Peoria chapter of Crime Stoppers was a very beneficial “real world” experience. Not only did we have the opportunity to meet with the client to discuss what they wanted from our group, but we also were able to create materials and present it to them as if we were actually hired to do their public relations. For the project, I created the flyer about the Crime Stoppers scholarship and the television slide that would be shown in Peoria County jails. I had never created pieces like these before, so I thought I would take on the challenge and put my basic knowledge of graphic design to use. I ended up creating pieces that I thought were visually appealing but contained all of the important information Crime Stoppers wanted on them too. When my group submitted everything to Crime Stoppers for review, there was no feedback given about my elements of the project. Part of me wished that they would have said something about my pieces, but I concluded that no feedback was good feedback. Generally, I would say there were no negative takeaways from this opportunity. I really enjoyed working with Crime Stoppers and gained helpful experience making press kit materials— experience that I will definitely draw upon in the future.

One way to combat the era of “fake news” is through captivating and efficient press releases. When journalists at newspapers and online news sources use press releases as their stories or to build their stories, their sources for that news are coming straight from the organization itself. Since the information coming from organizations should always be correct, sending out press releases that journalists should want to use could help diminish fake news. The most important thing to keep in mind when writing a press release is journalistic style. If the release is not up to the certain journalistic standards, journalists will not want to use it for a story. A press release also needs to be newsworthy, given that journalists receive so many every day. Focusing on the lead of the release is crucial because that is the first thing journalists read. The lead should be simple and short yet interesting to the readers. Including other elements like quotes, pictures and links to further information also help make the release stand out. In all, a press release should be able to stand alone as a news story so journalists won’t have to make any changes to it. If a journalist would have to make a change or add more to it, that is when false information could start to spread.

One press release I saw recently that is a good example of one is from the Cardinals about an upcoming event:

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https://www.mlb.com/cardinals/news/busch-stadium-to-host-spartan-sprint-race-on-august-11/c-275663066

 

Well-written public relations materials help build and maintain positive relationships with an audience because they give an organization a voice. In a world of huge corporations and big businesses, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that each organization is made up of people too. These people ultimately just want to serve other people, whether that’s through selling a good or service or if it’s a nonprofit that helps the community around it. Having well-written materials that explain an organization’s initiatives, motives and core beliefs makes the organization more approachable but also makes them look more put-together. People now want to have the information they need right away, so making sure organizations have that readily available with a modern look is crucial. Direct contact with an organization’s audience is also important in maintaining those positive relationships, which is why having up-to-date and engaging social media pages is the main focus of many public relations professionals nowadays (Wendy’s Twitter is one of my favorites). Organizations can use social media to directly speak to their audience and respond to any concerns they have. Any public relations material should ultimately make its readers feel more informed about an organization, and this can be done in both serious and entertaining ways. When an audience feels more informed about what an organization is all about, they should feel more willing to buy or partake in whatever they are selling or doing.

 

The one use social media to promote positive public relations that stood out to me was Crock-Pot’s response to the controversy that the show “This is Us” created. In the show, a Crock-Pot started a fire that killed a main character, and fans started to think that the slow cooker was dangerous. Crock-Pot eagerly responded by making a Twitter account with the handle @CrockPotCares and tweeting that their products are safe. They also replied to “This is Us” fans that had voiced their concern for the safety of Crock-Pots, first sympathizing with them about the loss of the main character, and then ensuring them that the slow cookers are not harmful in any way. 

I think that this is such a good example of how social media can really help handle a situation like this. Though the show is fictional, fans who are attached to the character that died suddenly felt negatively toward Crock-Pot. The company realized this quickly and made a Twitter account to reverse the negative effects of the show. No other form of public relations is as fast as social media, so they made the right decision in using it. In addition, Twitter was definitely the right platform to do this on because it was where most of the fans where discussing and it allows Crock-Pot to respond publicly to the concerns. 

I believe the most crucial Provision of Conduct from PRSA’s Code of Ethics that public relations professionals should be cognizant of when creating media for organizations is the “Free Flow of Information.” This provision’s intent is, “To maintain the integrity of relationships with the media, government officials, and the public” and to, “aid informed decision-making.” In order to do this, a member who follows PRSA’s Code of Ethics must preserve the integrity of communication, be honest and accurate, act promptly to correct erroneous communication and preserve the free flow of unprejudiced information when giving or receiving gifts. This provision especially applies when creating content that an organization releases to the media because people rely on that information to be true. If an organization releases false information or doesn’t try to correct it, the organization will look bad in the public eye and people will not be able to trust it anymore. Honesty is the most important value for public relations professionals, I believe, because it is the basic foundation in which people build trust for something. Even if the truth might hurt an organization, it is better to release it than to cover up a situation with a lie. 

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The Shequality Project

PR Council’s initiative, the Shequality Project, is encouraging women in the public relations field to seek more executive positions at PR agencies. The project was started by a group of female board members of the PR Council, and is, “committed to seeing more women achieve success by sharing the tools, knowledge and pathways to help them reach career goals.” Talk about girl power.

I’m all for empowering women, so this project immediately sparked my interest. What is interesting about the PR field is that it is heavily dominated by women, yet very few hold executive positions, and none are CEOs. That just doesn’t make much sense to me.

I think this initiative could be very helpful for women in the PR field to become leaders. Through networking dinners, workshops, events and content created to raise awareness of inequality in the PR industry, this project will not only equip women with more valuable skills to rise in position but also make more people aware of the topic itself.

I like that the PR Council is including multimedia components this campaign. It makes it more interactive and easier to be a part of. The video created for this project is very helpful if one wants to quickly understand what Shequality is about. It’s simple, informative and the facts given are shocking.

In addition, the PR Council started a podcast for this project, called the “Shequality Podcast,” that includes various women leaders discussing topics of equality in the workplace. Podcasts are rising in popularity, so this was definitely a smart move to expand this campaign’s reach and make people more interested in learning about the project.

Is it hard to know if this project will actually help women gain more executive positions at PR agencies? Sure, because if there is a change in leadership, it’s not guaranteed to be because of this campaign.

That being said, this project cannot do harm. Informing people of the facts, encouraging women to advance their careers and spreading the idea of equality are actions that are certainly not going to hurt anyone.

In my opinion, I think the Shequality Project will help with gender inequality in this industry. Even if the initiative encourages just one woman to become a top leader of her PR agency, this project will be successful. Overall, the message is clear, powerful and supportive. So hopefully it will be one that is passed down for generations.

Looking to the future

As a public relations major, the questions that always follows my answer to what I’m studying is, “What do you plan on doing with that?” or, “What would be your dream job?”. Honestly, I’m not one to think that far ahead. Especially when it could be several years before I obtain a job I am satisfied with. But goals are important to have, so I guess having a “dream job” in mind could be helpful to me right now.

What I like about the PR field is that it’s so diverse and fast-paced. You never really know what exactly you’re getting into when you decide to go into this career, and that’s exciting for me.

So, for a dream job, I would love to work at a PR agency, such as FleishmanHillard, because the work and the clients are always different. I like the idea of having a steady position at an agency, but having new projects and clients to work for every few weeks. Having the PR writing skills that I’m currently developing now would be extremely helpful for a position at an agency, particularly one that focuses on digital media. full-color-logo.jpg

Since I was little I have always dreamed of working for the Cardinals, too. I love the team and have grown up watching them, so doing some sort of public relations or marketing for them would also be a dream come true.

With regards to blogging, press release writing, writing for social media, and feature writing, I can genuinely say that I enjoy each type. Of course, with blogging and social media writing, there’s a little bit more room for creativity and ability to play with different formats. On the other hand, press release writing is strict and straightforward, which can be nice if you would like to take a break from thinking creatively. Feature writing is good a mix of both. There’s the certain structure to a story that needs to be present, but the subject and the delivery can be varied.

For a creative person, writing a press release might seem like a difficult task. But for a person who likes order and getting straight to the point, it may seem easy. I would say in general, though, the limitations that each type of writing has is the hardest part about them. The rules and guidelines to follow can pose a challenge, but I’m certain that I’m willing to take on anything challenge my future might hold for me.

The tone​ of voice tells all

The insurance company MetLife has adopted a new approach to how they perform their daily calls to customers. The program they’ve started using is called Cogito, and it is a software that tracks the workers and customers’ voices to assist the calling process. By analyzing the tone of the workers’ voices, Cogito tells them when they are starting to sound uninterested when on the phone. Then by analyzing the customers’ voices, Cogito tells the callers when the person on the other line is experiencing a state of heightened emotions.

This virtual assistant can make jobs at the call center a little bit easier and calls with customers a little more empathetic. Because callers are notified when the customer’s tone of voice changes to reflect feeling emotions, workers can now tell exactly when they should be a voice of comfort for their customer. Ultimately, the goal of this software is to improve that worker/customer relationship, and while this technology may seem a little creepy at first, I think it’s a useful way to improve that vital relationship.

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The Wired article about this topic explains that this software is designed to help call center workers focus on their human connections more. It’s not the most exciting job to call customers all day to talk about the same thing, so this software is there to give callers a little reminder to really listen to their customers even when they are tired.

On the other hand, there can be negatives to this software too. While it may help the conversation flow better, customers may feel violated when they hear that the call is being monitored. People are increasingly getting weary of their privacy when dealing with new technologies. But as long as companies that use Cogito make it clear to the customers what is happening, I think this software is perfectly ethical. Honesty is one of the main points of PRSA’s Code of Ethics, so companies must make sure they uphold that standard of being transparent with their consumers.

In conclusion, this software can be highly beneficial for both companies and customers. The callers will be able to show that they care more easily, and the customers will notice that they are actually being listened to. Thus improving satisfaction on both ends of the relationship. All in all, that’s what good public relations is about.

“Girl With No Job” is a fitting name

Recently Oath, a media company owned by Verizon, canceled Instagram star Girl With No Job’s talk show because of the resurfacing of racist tweets from her and her sister. The host, Claudia Oshry, rose to fame on Instagram, and since April she and her sister hosted the show “The Morning Breath” that was streamed on social media networks.

Their mother is known for being anti-Muslim, and her opinions were reflected in her daughters a few years ago when both tweeted offensive statements about people who practice Islam. The girls have since apologized for their tweets, but they are still feeling the negative effects from them. Below is Oshry’s public apology on Instagram.

From a public relations standpoint, I think it was smart for Oath to cancel the show. There is zero tolerance for discrimination nowadays, even though this issue revolves around something that was done in the past. Oath knows the girls’ mother holds controversial opinions. They also know that the girls have made controversial statements themselves. Let’s face it– no company, no matter how big or small, wants to be associated with controversy. It drives consumers away and it doesn’t make any company look good.

According to the Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics, practitioners must “serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent.” In this case, being linked with people who have made anti-Muslim statements in the past is not serving the public interest. Oath recognized that if they were to continue Oshry’s show, their mother or their past statements could be linked to the media company, and that is not a socially responsible thing to do. Serving the public interest means serving the entire public, not just one group of people. Muslim viewers could feel uncomfortable watching this show if they knew the hosts’ backgrounds. By canceling the show, Oath is showing that they value every one of their consumers, and that they put the public’s interest first on their list of priorities.

If executives at Oath knew of the Oshrys’ backgrounds going into the relationship, the show would have likely never even started. But the pair of Instagram famous sisters went great lengths to hide who their mother is, explained in the Daily Beast article that exposed who they are.

Canceling a show because its stars are linked to controversy is not an easy thing to do, but it has been a common trend recently. Celebrities are feeling the consequences of their past actions and behaviors. Whether sexual misconduct or, in this case, racist remarks, stars are learning now that anything said or done in their past can have ramifications on their future.

From one perspective, this isn’t fair. People change, especially their opinions. No one is the same person they were five or ten years ago. So bringing up something offensive that was said during that time doesn’t reflect who they are today.

From another perspective, this is completely fair. People should take responsibility for their words and actions, even if they were said or done a long time ago. No one should get away without some sort of repercussion.

Oath has obviously taken the second perspective, and I don’t blame them. Detaching their company from these girls shows that they do not put up with any kind of discrimination. It’s a bold move, but I think it will pay off in the next few years.

I don’t think Girl With No Job is going to be unemployed for the rest of her life because of this situation. She is clearly very sorry for the things she has said, and I think her followers understand where she’s coming from. Moving forward, I think any celebrity should know that the best way to deal with a scandal is to admit guilt and apologize. For the companies that employ them, their best way just might be to fire them.

PetScrub’s Press Release

PetScrub, a Houston-based company that sells a pressure washing tool that cleans and de-sheds dogs, recently issued a press release describing their product in efforts to gain support and increase sales.

The press release begins with the statement, “It could be the best pet invention since the flea collar,” and continues the lead paragraph with background about what PetScrub does specifically.  As a lead sentence, this statement captures readers’ attention but doesn’t give much information about the actual product itself. This sentence would have done well if it was the following more of an informative lead. Considering that this is a product press release, readers should know instantly what they’re reading about from the opening line.

Another focus of this lead paragraph is to state that PetScrub has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring the product to the market, but the company fails to mention the campaign again in the release and doesn’t state how to donate to it. If I were PetScrub, I would make sure to explain more about what Kickstarter is, why they began the campaign and how one can contribute to it.

The overall writing style of this press release is also not ideal. There are just two large paragraphs, so it doesn’t flow very well. Breaking this information up into separate, more concise paragraphs would be more effective.

In addition, including more videos and pictures about how to use the product would help increase clarity. There are pictures and videos linked below the press release, but people don’t necessarily know what they’re clicking on when they see these links. Embedding the pictures and videos instead of linking them would solve this problem. Similarly, using quotes from consumer testimonials would be effective to showcase the product’s best features.

This press release isn’t deplorable, but there definitely is room for improvement. If PetScrub wants to increase its consumer base, they will have to learn to communicate their message slightly better. The information about the product is there, it just needs to be conveyed in a different way.

 

Is it worth the free baguettes?

Panera Bread, a fast-casual dining restaurant chain known for its sandwiches, soups and salads is taking their café appeal to a next level. Their restaurants, painted with warm colors and filled with comfortable seating and fireplaces are often a popular place for dates. I would know this because I work at Panera over breaks, and I have witnessed many couples come into the restaurant together to enjoy a nice meal.

Panera has recognized this, and has even capitalized on the idea of a #paneradate on their social media before. But now they are promoting this idea of love in their cafés even further by encouraging people to get engaged in their restaurants. Not the usual place for a proposal, sure, but Panera is offering five couples who post a picture of their proposal on social media free catering at their wedding.

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Cheers to another successful #paneradate

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Panera has named this campaign the #PaneraProposalSweeps, and it has gained a fair amount of attention online. The couples must get engaged on Valentine’s Day, post evidence of their proposal on social media and use the campaign’s hashtag to be entered into the sweepstakes. Five winners will then be picked and receive up to $2,000 worth of Panera catering at their wedding.

The problem many people on Twitter and Facebook have been pointing out about this campaign is that the risk/reward level is too unfavorable. Proposing to your future spouse at a place where the most common phrase is, “Would you like chips, apple or bread for your side?” is certainly not the most romantic gesture. In addition, there’s no guarantee that if you do propose at a Panera that you will win free catering. This is just a sweepstakes, after all, so it’s likely that many people who got engaged in a Panera Bread only received applause from its employees and fellow customers out of this.

Having people enter the contest through social media has both positive and negative aspects to it. On the positive end, this creates publicity and attention online for Panera Bread, making consumers associate Panera more with love and happiness. On the negative end, it’s hard to regulate whether these social media posts are legit or not through one picture. A couple could easily stage a photo just to be entered into the sweepstakes, something that I’m sure at least a few of the couples have done.

If I were on Panera’s PR team, I would suggest that they first make their promotional video a little bit more clear. It’s hard to read the fine print at the bottom of the video, making the rules of this sweepstakes not effectively communicated. Second, I would encourage participants to submit a video on social media rather than a picture, so it would be a harder to stage a fake proposal. Last, I would make the amount of food won worth more than $2,000. This is an attractive prize, but it might not be practical for all couples. Increasing it by another thousand would make this sweepstakes more ideal and competitive.

In the future, I don’t think Panera should repeat this campaign. One that involves something less serious than getting engaged would be better, such as rewarding customers for simply going on a date at the restaurant instead. But who knows, maybe those five couples that won will have the wedding of their dreams, with copious amounts of baguettes and bread bowls to fill their plates.