Conversations!

From teachers to doctors, storekeepers to salesmen, there is one thing everyone in the work force will face sooner or later. Difficult conversations with co-workers and employees are inevitable. That dreaded moment, when you are the one appointed to talk with an employee about something difficult to address, may go more smoothly, if you’ve considered some professional strategies. Possibly you have been asked by other employees to speak to one of the men or women on staff about their body odor; or maybe it is somewhat simpler like inquiring why someone has been late three days in a row.

Either way there are good and bad ways to handle these situations. I recently took a short course at Poynter. News University. It was entitled Dealing With Difficult Conversations. Here Jill Geisler goes through the five styles of conflict resolution. She talks about how we all have a natural bent to try to solve conflict in one of five ways—competition, compromise, collaboration, accommodation, or avoidance. We may even have a combination of these, but Geisler goes through some of the most effective strategies.

Here are just a few pointers given by Geisler.

1. Use a collaboration form of conflict resolution; this way both parties can walk away feeling like they have been heard. In this case, an effort is made to put together all the ideas from two differing sides, in order to have the best possible outcome.

2. When you go to have a difficult conversation with someone pull him or her aside; don’t do it where others can hear and the individual could experience further embarrassment. Also get straight to the point and don’t try to put the blame on others, when explaining why a certain decision was reached.

3. Guard yourself; you may need to let someone over you know what is going on. In some circumstances it may even be good to have a person from Human Resources, be part of the meeting. Finally, when closing out conversations go back and review what has been said. Make sure you are both leaving on the same page.

I hope some of these pointers are helpful, and if you want to learn more, make an account at newsu.org and take the Dealing With Difficult Conversations course.

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And Tonight’s Feature Film Will Be …

There was an air of expectation in the theatre on Friday night, as an array of colorful gowns and pristine suits and ties entered the grand Polk Theatre in Lakeland, Fl. It was to be the premier of Southeastern University’s first feature film Roundhousen’s Roast. With flash photography and the cameras rolling, it really felt like an authentic Hollywood premier. The guests attending represented a variety of students, faculty, staff, parents, and locals from the community.

The film started at around 7:30 p.m. and held our attention for the next 90 minutes. Afterwards the actors and crew “opened it up” for a time of Q&A. This was then followed by a reception with coffee and cupcakes. I have to say that I was very impressed. They produced the film with no budget and only one professional actor. Yet, you would have never guessed. The acting in particular, was exciting and professional, and the script was very clever with somewhat of a twist at the end.

It was a murder mystery and comedy at the same time (a little like the movie Clue). The film was engaging until the very end. I hope the University decides to make more films in the future. Dave DeBorde, a professor at Southeastern and also the director of the film, said that he hopes to produce another movie next year. If you are interested in finding out more about Roundhousen’s Roast or purchasing the film on Blu-ray or DVD, you can go to their facebook or contact Southeastern University.

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Top Ten!

From resumes to twitter and from public relations professionals to corporations, this semester has been a wonderful learning experience. I not only have heard about topics I previously knew nothing about, but I have had several hands-on learning experiences, that helped shape the way I now view the field of public relations. I have a lot more respect for those in PR, and I also have a much better grasp of what it means to be a professional in public relations.

Number One— When first looking to start in public relations, the best way to get an interview, not a job but an interview, is by having a good resume. A resume should highlight strengths and accomplishments. Former places of employment and involvement are good to include. Try to have the resume cater to the place you are applying, and make it simple and easy to read. Finally keep it to a page; don’t go on and on for three pages about every little thing you have been a part of for the past ten years. This leads to the next point.

Number Two— Use LinkedIn in correlation with the resume. Although a resume should only be about a page, LinkedIn is a popular place for employers to go and see the more extended resume of a potential employee.

Number Three— Once you get an interview, there are other things to keep in mind. First do your homework, memorize names of people you will meet before you meet them. Find out what the company is about and know its history. Arrive in plenty of time and dress nicely. (A suit is normally a safe bet). Brush up on standard interview questions and try to predict what they may ask you. This way you are not caught off guard.

Number Four— Before this semester I knew nothing about Twitter, but now I see how useful it can be. It is a wonderful way to stay connected and make connections. As a PR professional you will want to be in tune with what the world is talking about. What better way than Twitter.

Number Five— However, Twitter can also be used to really make those in the PR field work. For instance, if you are part of the public relations department of a large corporation there is a lot of pressure put on, when something goes wrong and everyone is tweeting about it. News that used to reach a few hundred people can now easily reach thousands or even millions. This leads to the next issue.

Number Six— I interviewed a public relations professional and one of the questions I asked him was, “What does a normal day or week look like?” He responded by saying that basically there wasn’t a normal day or week. I think part of this is you never know what might be the most pressing issue of the week. If Twitter explodes with bad publicity on your company, the whole focus of the PR department has to shift for that week or until things get cleared up. I also gained a lot of other interesting knowledge from my interview. If you want to read more about it you can click here.

Number Seven— Along the same lines. This semester I also learned a lot about corporations and the somewhat common mistrust that many of them face. Again, I saw the need for public relations, especially when the press or a customer doesn’t give an accurate portrayal of your company.

Number Eight— Moving into another area of thought. I have learned a lot about effective ways to listen and the importance of being a good listener. I took a NewsU course on listening, and I think it has truly helped me to be more conscious about how I communicate in conversations.

Number Nine— Another important lesson I gained this year was how to effectively deliver difficult information; like telling a good employee that they need to be more responsible in arriving to work on time, or their job may be jeopardized. This was also a NewsU course.

Number Ten— Finally, I learned the importance of staying current with public relations and some of the websites like prdaily.com that offer information to those looking to stay connected.

So, needless to say, there have been a lot of helpful tidbits that I gained from Professor Nixon’s Public Relations class. This was just a glimpse into three months of classes and learning — I hope you enjoyed it!

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The PR Battle of Corporations

This past week I had the pleasure of talking to my Public Relations class about corporations, media relations, and customer relations. The information and statistics in  the following paragraphs are taken from chapter 17 of the ninth edition of Public Relations Strategies and Tactics. Here the authors, Dennis Wilcox and Glen Cameron, discuss the struggles that corporations face in today’s world. They also present the need for public relations and the many challenges that people in PR encounter.

For mega corporations, such as Walmart and Exxon Mobil, (with annual sales in the $300 billion range), keeping the public on your side can be hard. So many things can potentially go wrong, and all it takes is one disgruntled, combative employee or unexpected disaster to rock the ship. Only 27% of Americans say they trust corporations, and any frauds like the Martha Stewart stock scandal further damage the reputation of conglomerates. The tendency is to stereotype and believe that because one corporation’s practices are shown to be unethical, illegal or hardhearted, they all are.

This lack of trust builds a strong argument for the need for public relations. PR comes to the rescue when corporations find themselves on a sinking ship. Sometimes it is a slow leak that gradually takes down the crew and everyone on board. Other times it is a sudden storm that tears a ten-foot wide hole, leaving a quickly sinking vessel. The truth is that either way, something has to be done to fix the damage and reassure the passengers that the cruise line they chose to travel with is not as bad as many are saying.

Some of the key ways that the greater community hears rumors or distorted truths is by way of the press or customers. Most corporations fear the potential damage that reporters and journalists can bring to their business. However, customers these days can have almost as great an impact as a reporter, through the use of modern media. For instance, if someone has a bad experience at a store, they can post a critical article on their blog or tweet their experience, and soon thousands or even millions of people can hear about it.

The job, therefore, of public relations has become an even greater challenge than it has been in the past. There are so many probable loose cannons that could go off. The good part is that the same tools used against a conglomerate can also be used for it. If something positive happens, thousands and millions of people can quickly be notified through the use of the Internet and news stations. So, in essence, a public relations firm or department has the responsibility of getting the good news out to combat all the possible damaging reports. If they can be successful in this, the corporation will likely have wider doors of opportunity and heightened sales, and PR will have served its purpose.

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Target Hits the Mark!

Target is not about to give up the gold!  Walmart has always claimed to have the lowest prices, and in past years that has been true, but according to a recent article by Alan Peary at PR Daily, Target is gaining ground. Customer Growth Patterns released a report that found Target to be the better buy, on 35 brand-name items. Although the differences in price were not huge, they still represented Target as the better place to purchase certain products.

This is a big deal for Target, because although it has been a huge competitor of Walmart for many years, it has generally gained its status because of the unique things it has to offer. Maybe a cleaner feel, more selection of stylish clothes, or the increasingly common Starbucks at the front has helped Target win its appeal, but now it may have another hook.

The truth is Walmart, since around the year 2000, has consistently been the low price super store of the nation. Yet, if Target keeps on this track there may be a new first place winner. However, the climb to the top will not be easy. Davis Tovar, the spokesperson for Walmart, says that if their customers find lower prices somewhere else, they will match the prices. A tough lead to follow but not impossible, and Target seems up for the challenge.

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What Happened?

I don’t know if you ever played telephone when you were a child, but the grownup version seems to be occurring through blog sites. Everyone likes a good story and what better one, than a reporter being stuffed in a closet for the duration of a political fundraising event?  Scott Powers, from the Orlando Sentinel, wrote on his blog that the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. Last Wednesday he went to cover Joe Biden’s fundraising event for Sen. Bill Nelson.

When he first arrived, he was asked to wait in a small kind of storage closet. He willingly went in, but ran into problems on trying to leave. The staff member guarding the door would not allow Powers to interview or talk with any of the guests, and asked him to remain in the storage area. He was only allowed out, after the speakers had begun, and then ushered back to the closet before the event closed, again prohibiting him from having any interviews with those who attended.

Powers got tired of the way things were being handled, and took a picture of the room he was in. He then sent the photo to his editor, explaining that because of the restricted access, he would not be able to provide much, if any information, about what went on before or after the main presentation.

Now, in some articles and blogs this account has spiraled so far out into left field that the story is hardly recognizable.  It may read that Powers was kidnapped or that he was held in the closet for the whole fundraiser, and not allowed out to hear the speakers. Anyway, it is amazing how fast word travels and how screwed up it can become. I think this is just a reminder to anyone in the field of journalism or public relations that it is of key importance to get facts straight before releasing them to the public.

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Twitter Chat

What is a Twitter chat? Well if you are anything like me you have no idea. The good part is that we are about to find out. Sending a Tweet is simple enough once you get the hang of it, and viewing others’ tweets is fairly easy to figure out. However, knowing how to plug into a chat feels like a whole different communication game.

For those of you who don’t know, Twitter chats are conversations had through twitter, and they are geared more towards covering specific topics. Some chats occur weekly and some are monthly. There could even be a one-time shot. The topics cover anything from recent technology upgrades to special recipes.

However, the challenge for me comes when I first try to log into a chat. I found this You Tube video to be helpful, and I think it will do a better job of explaining what I am trying to express. Take a look and see what you think — maybe it will clear up some confusion.

So what did you think? I would like to touch on a few things that stood out to me. First, there is the importance of a hashtag. The hashtag allows you to block out all the other “stuff” going through twitter, and focus on those who are only interacting with the subject you are meeting about. Without the hashtag it would be virtually impossible to hold a chat.

Secondly, there is the possible annoyance of spam, but the block allows you to easily cut out any interaction from an unwanted source. You also have the ability to highlight the messages from people you like, by putting their addresses in the feature area.

Finally, keep in mind that, although you are only viewing messages that have to do with the subject connected to the hashtag group, your posts are still being displayed on your main twitter page. So what you write does not stay restricted to the tweet chat you are on. I hope this helped! I don’t know about you, but I think I am ready to give it a try.

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