Category Archives: public relations ins and outs

Small towns and social media.

I am from a relatively small city in Ohio.  Toledo, to be exact.  As many non-Ohioans are not too up-to-date on their Ohio geography, here’s a map for your reference.

Most of us native Toledoans consider Toledo to be the center of the universe.  After all we brought you Katie Holmes, Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H… anyone?) and heavy metal band Lollipop Lust Kill.  That’s not to mention Tony Packo’s, the Toledo Mud Hens and largest continuous sheet of tempered glass on record.  But I digress…

The point here is that while we small city folks may have oodles of hometown pride, most of us can own the fact that we are often a little behind on the times.  Fashions, trends and new ideas take longer to grab on around town.  Social media is not exempt from this rule.  The originals like Facebook and MySpace took a minute to become the hip thing.  I remember my younger cousins in suburban Chicago were on them long before I was.  YouTube caught on fairly quickly, but I of course heard about if from my Chicago cousins first.

Nowadays most Toledoans know of the pleases and sorrows of both Facebook, YouTube and blogging, but some of the other networks that are huge in  Chicago still have not caught on in my hometown.  I don’t know anyone in Toledo who tweets and I would be hard pressed to find any Toledo business contacts on LinkedIn.  I would be willing to wager that most Toledoans don’t know what Flickr or Delicious are.

Keeping in mind that Toledo is fairly representative of a lot of midwestern cities and towns, I would be interested in finding out if there is any research on integrating social media in small towns and cities.  I did a quick Google search but did not find much.  Any one have any ideas?

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Public relations ethics

Anyone who works in public relations knows that ethics are a big gray area of the industry.  PRSA has a code of ethics for its members.  Like many codes of ethics though, it is just vague enough to not be cause for concern among the less scrupulous members of the profession.  There is not an industry standard as far as rules and consequences are concerned.

There are plenty of other industries that have vague codes of ethics, but a vague ethics code isn’t a problem for most industries.  The engineers code of ethics probably is not the most clear code available, but who is asking?  Public relations tends to run into ethic trouble with the generally public a lot more often than engineering world does.  A lot of people have an image of public relations as a shady, fact-twisting spin machine.  A quick Google search will turn up dozens of criticisms of public relations.

Most people in the public relations world seem to be too easy-going to care about what the general public things about their ethics.  This seems odd, considering we make our living dealing with what people think.  I think it is time the public relations world revisits its ethics.

One idea I’ve heard is to make public relations a licenced profession.  Anyone wanting to practice would have to pass an exam, much like lawyers, doctors and teachers must.  The idea is that if you have to be licenced to practice, you are less likely to be unethical because you risk loosing your license.  I am not really sure how practical the licencing idea is, but it make sense.  For now, we will just have to trust that people will do the right thing.

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Goals, strategies, objectives, tactics, old pairs of socks

I’m taking a break from working on a final project.  The assignment is to create a social media plan for a brand or company.  Sounds easy enough and essentially I know where I’m going with the project.  The problem comes when I have to write it all out.  The thing that I’ve always found confusing about public relations are these theoretical goals strategies, objectives and tactics that everyone keeps talking about.  I mean, all the words sound pretty much the same.  Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that they are not the same.  That much has been explained to me a million times by a million different professors.  But you have to admit, they do sound the same.

More baffling to me is the fact that the public relations world insists on a very distinct yet hard to define/ explain differentiation between the four.  If you read this post from the Pro PR blog, you can read yet another explanation of what all these different words are supposed to mean.  It still feels kind of nit-picky to me.  I would even be okay having two different categories of .  Obviously a goal is not the same as how you’re going to achieve it.  So I can see having a goal and tactics or strategies, or whatever you want to call them.  If you state what you want to do (goal) and how you want to do it (tactic) it seems to me that you’ve covered you bases.  Anything else is just splitting hairs.

That being said, the power that be in the public relations world are quite insistent on a diferenciation, so inorder to do my part to appease said powers, I give you the goals, strategies, objectives and tactics of eliminating goals, strategies, objectives and tactics from the public realtions world.

Goal: Get rid of goals, strategies, objectives and tactics as a means to creating a public relations plan.

Strategy: Convince the public relations world that these things are not necessary.

Objectives: Take care of things to old fashioned way; beat it out of them.

Tactics: Brooms, clubs, bats, years of therapy.

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Why working with startup companies is hard to do

I am writing one of my final papers about the public relations challenges of working with startup companies.  I figured a condensed version (the paper is 8 pages) would make a good blog post.  Ruder Finn has a lot of startup clients.  I emailed my coworkers and asked them all for insights on what makes working with startup companies difficult.  The number one thing I heard was that startup companies tend to lack a clear understanding of what public relations is.  Clients often expect way more than is realistic.  The want the cover of Time and the front page of the New York Times even though that is way out of their league.  Startup companies, because they are created by people who are really passionate about them often lack an objective perspective.  They think that everyone else is just as excited about their product or service as they are and can’t understand why every reporter out there is not dying to cover their story.

My coworkers also mentioned that because startup companies don’t fully understand what public relations is, they often use public relations as their entire marketing, sales and advertising strategy.  Since public relations is not the same as sales, marketing and advertising, clients will often be upset when public relations practitioners can’t deliver everything the company wants.  Often this leads to upset clients give who are easy to give up on public relations altogether when they don’t immediately see the results they want.  Other challenges people pointed out include lack of financial and personnel resources and limited or no public visibility.

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Public Relations in the days of the dinosaur

After booting up my computer to start writing this blog, I realized that my internet was, sadly, not working.  After an initial moment or two of panic, I realized that, as crazy as it seems, I could possibly type a blog post now without being on the internet and just upload it later.  I debated the idea in my head for a while.  Can I really do this?  What if I need to look something up on Wikipedia?  How was I going to come up with a post idea with doing a Google search first?

At a certain point it occurred to me how ridiculous my predicament was.  I am not a complete idiot.  I can write a blog post without using the internet.  (Pull yourself together, Kelly!)  I put my non-internet powered thinking cap on and decided to write about the most obvious thing that came to my mind.  What the hell did public relations people do before the internet?

I mean, really, everything I do at Ruder Finn involves the internet.  I cannot think of one single activity I have done in the past month that didn’t involve the internet.  I could think of about two things that didn’t have to involve the internet, and they were more administrative things than actual public relations related activities (does looking up the price of business cards for my boss count as a public relations activity?).  The reality is, I am constantly on the internet at work, whether it’s creating a media list or searching for hits.

Without the internet, public relations practitioners had to have been a lot more specialized.  Right now, the clients I work on include a start-up payments company, an ingredients manufacturer and an engineering association.   Quite frankly, I have very little knowledge of any of these industries.  If I didn’t have Google and Wikipedia, I would not be able to do my job.  In the pre-internet era, public relations practitioners couldn’t just tell the intern to throw together a spreadsheet of food ingredient awards.  Practitioners would either have to just know what awards existed or figure it out some other way.  Hopefully, there was some sort of database for this (if not I have no idea how that would have worked).  But even a database wouldn’t have been searchable and someone (by someone I mean the intern) would have had to actually read through a list of awards to find ones that were applicable.

The same thing would have had to happen to create a media list.  Considering how quickly media lists go out of date, this would have been an incredible task.  Perhaps back when journalism was a more stable industry and writer loyalties were less fickle.  Even if that was the case, the turn-around time for updates to a media database could not have been nearly what it is today (not that Cision is too quick on the draw, anyway).

Before the internet, public relations must have been a completely different animal than the one it is today.  It’s not really a matter of tiger cub growing into an adult tiger.  It’s more like a tiger mating with a lion and creating a liger.  Completely different animal.

The liger -- part lion, part tiger, all awesome.

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