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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Good advice from a young pr pro

A coworker at Ruder Finn mentioned the Creative Career blog to me the other day.  It’s written by Allie, a friend of his at Edelman.  Her blog offers advice to the college student/ recent grad looking for a job in the world of creative communications.  Allie is a relatively new to the public relations world too.  So she understands the mindset of those of us looking for jobs, but also has the perspective of someone who’s been there, done that and survived.  Her recent post, The Art of Proving Yourself in a New Career is worth reading.

I’m in total agreement with everything she says.  I especially like number two “attention to detail comes first.”  She says that “you have to prove that you can get the details right before moving on to the ‘bigger picture’.”  In class all our projects focus on creating plans and campaigns.  No one mentioned that when we first started working we would be sitting around researching technology reporters and Smart Grid bloggers.  But that’s where you have to start if you one day want to get to the point where you’re doing things that are more creative.

Number seven, “learn to prioritize” is also a great point.  When I first got to Ruder Finn, it felt like everyone was giving me different projects and that I would never get them all finished.  Once I learned to do the most important things first and save the routine projects for when I had time, I began to get things done really quickly and was able to take on more and more.

If I could add anything to I’d say that you should get to know as much as you can about the client and the project, even if you’re just told to make a media list.  When I first started working I’d get all these assignments that seemed really random and that I couldn’t put in context.  I think it’s really helpful to research the client and then ask your boss about the work you’re doing for that client.  That way if you get stuck on something you can ask intelligent questions.

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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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T-minus seven months until graduation…

Although I am not the type of person who particularly enjoys school and lives for classroom learning, I might rather be doomed to being a student for the rest of my life than have to think about what I am going to be doing this time next year.  But more school is not an option for me at this point for several reasons, so I have to buckle down and figure this out.

I was browsing through the public relations page on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, hoping to find the answers to all my career questions.  However, I quickly realized the Federal government isn’t too concerned with giving every soon-to-graduate-and-freaking-out-about-it 22-year-old career advice.  And when I really think about it, I am not yet desperate enough to take career advice from the Federal government.  But in any case, being a big fan of numbers, it was nice to read the statistics.

The stats are from 2006, so a little bit out of date, but good enough.  The current economic situation probably means they are no longer totally accurate, but I tend to assume an “-ish” after numbers to make up for economic turbulence.  Apparently in 2006 there were 243,000ish people working in public relations and the BLS is saying that by 2016 there will be 286,000.  For us soon-to-graduate types, that is good news.  The industry is growing, so if we are willing to work hard there is a place for us.  That being said, the Feds dutifully report that ” keen competition is expected for entry-level jobs”.  Luckily for us Loyola kids, we have been told that from day one and we are expected to have internships in order to give us a leg up over said competition.

The rest of the page talked about qualifications and advancement in the public relations industry, all information I already had a good grasp on.  What I have concluded after reading through the page is that I should not be worried about finding a job in public relations.  Jobs are definitely out there and I know what I have to do to find one.  Realistically, I (and most of my fellow students who are soon to graduate) am just worried about committing to the “real world”.  Bottom line,we all have to make that leap sooner or later.  The fact that I am graduating with a degree in public relations gives me a tangible skill set that will work to my advantage in whatever field I choose to work in.  Time to man up and jump in!

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Why I’m going to like my internship.

This semester I have my first internship at Ruder Finn.  When I was doing the mandatory pre-interview research on the company, I came across a message from chairman and founder, David Finn.  I really liked what he had to say about public relations and the role he thinks it should play in shaping the future.  He points out that public relations professionals have many of the skills necessary to help improve understanding in the global world; good public relations people are great communicators and skilled at situation analysis.  These two skills play an obvious role in global relations and are skills that make public relations professional truly valuable.

I think this is exactly the reason I became interested in public relations in the first place.  While I can usually write myself off as being young and idealistic, it is nice to hear that a seasoned public relations professional can hold the same optimism about the industry.  Reading David Finn’s letter made me excited about starting my career in public relations and really excited about working for Ruder Finn.

I don’t necessarily expect the research I was doing today on health care trade publications in Mexico to improve the world in any way.  I do, however, expect that if I work really hard now, while I’m on the low end of the public relations food chain, that I will eventually be able to work my way up to a position in which I can help bring about actual change in some small way.  From my young, inexperienced perspective that is what makes a career in public relations both exciting and challenging.

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