A Few Good Tips!

Nancy Duarte, an accomplished businesswoman from California, recently spoke at Southeastern University. I had the privilege of hearing her talk about Duarte Design, the business she started with her husband more than 20 years ago. They have been very successful, developing and presenting nearly half a million presentations for various companies, corporations, and businesses. These include, but are not limited to, Hewlett Packard, Apple, Chick-fil-A, and ted.com.

Duarte, after sharing a little about herself, opened the floor to questions. One of the first asked, was: “How can college students benefit from using LinkedIn?”

Her response was very clear and straightforward. She explained how when her company goes to hire a new employee they always check LinkedIn, as well as Facebook and Google, to see what information comes up about the person they are considering. LinkedIn also can provide information about what previous co-workers thought of a person. So, if you are having a hard time nailing down a job interview with just a resume, you may want to try LinkedIn. This way you can share more about your gifts and talents without the on page resume limitations.

Another question of interest was — “What advice would you give to a student who is trying to follow in your steps?”

Duarte said the best way is simply to “Wake up every day and ask God what you are supposed to do that day.”  She continued to explain how important it is to be following the Lord in correlation with seeking a profession. She also said, “To go into public relations you have to be a good communicator, and some graphic design classes would help as well.”

A few questions were asked pertaining to how to put together a good presentation, and then what ways are the best for presenting the information.

“You have to know the group you are speaking in front of, and no matter what, you want people to feel that you are warm.” She also added that presentations should be entertaining in order to keep people’s attention. Her basic point was, know your information and know the group you will be in front of. You would present differently to a group of CEO’s than you would to a general public that was coming to hear about a product.

Finally she said, “Know your material and be sharp on your feet. Have a printout to be safe.” Technical difficulties will occur so you should be able to present and hold people’s attention with or without media help.

These are some of the highlights from a wealth of material she presented, following her own advice and holding our attention. If you ever have a chance to go see her “live” I would strongly recommend you take the opportunity. Her years of experience and successful company make her a great source of information.

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Guest Blogger-Christina Harden

This is a blog post by Christina Harden. I read it a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I thought I would pass it on. If you want to go to her blog, click here.

Really?

So according to Patrick Wintour’s article “Facebook and Bebo Risk ‘Infantilising’ the Human Mind,” ‘Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity(sic).”

But how accurate is that really? Here’s a small test for you.

Odds are like me, you did your best to focus very hard on the team in white. You wanted to prove you have a good attention span and watched the players. But your ability to focus on the whole screen was impaired. This is dangerous on the road, and when looking up information.

I feel this article is a little strong, but at the same time may contain some truth. Focusing on marketing, I remember when commercials lasted a whole minute, now they’re cut into 30 seconds of flashing lights and fanciful arrangements. Even public service announcements (PSA) are being treated in this manner. Any PR practitioner trying to relate with this generation has to be quick and concise, and building the relationship between the company and clients has to be just as fast.

During my Education classes I’m constantly being reminded that technology must be actively used whenever possible in order to keep students’ attention. My pastor checks his watch during sermons so not to hold the congregation too long. Hundreds of self-help books have emerged on how to handle procrastination; almost all of which point out distraction (a short attention spans best friend) as one of the problems to combat. Even company websites are lessening the word content and amp-ing up the visual effects. Are we losing our attention spans?

In a world where we expect our news in 140 characters or less, no doubt we are. I wouldn’t say social networks are the cause of this breakdown, but a result of it. Because people are feeling such a need to rush from one activity to the next, we are shorting the time we are willing to spend on any transaction, and this includes communication and information retrieval.

We want to connect to others, but there simply isn’t time to chat with all 500 people that cutler our friends lists. And at the same time the sad reality is, none of our friends are making time for us. We post blurbs of our lives in an attempt to be known and are turning up empty. Likewise we aren’t really connecting to anyone based off a few status updates.

We want to know what’s going on all over the world, and we want to know now. But extensive study of any one subject means we’re missing info somewhere else. Tweets flyby in an instant. If the space allotted were any longer we’d miss what was being said altogether. So we look for quick snips of knowledge here and there, from marketing to PSAs, and were actually learning very little.

Our minds are being programmed to enjoy the ‘short’ which in turns means we’re losing the discipline needed for a long-attention span. I could be wrong on all these points, but still the trend remains; short and sweet.

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A Peak Inside the Life of a PR Professional

For many, the lines between advertising, marketing, and public relations seem blurry. Unless you have personal experience in these fields or close connections with someone who does, these three entities can remain vague. So, hopefully this article will help to dissipate some of that confusion, at least in the area of Public Relations.

I interviewed Gary Kimler, who is the Public Relations Director at Southeastern University, where I am a student in Lakeland, Florida. He was very gracious, and took nearly an hour out of his day to thoroughly answer all my questions in a face-to-face interview. I would never have guessed how much there is to public relations. It is not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination, but if done well it can be very rewarding.

According to Kimler “no week looks the same.” Last week from March 8th to the 10th was the “craziest week of the year” for him. Southeastern held their 2011 Leadership Forum. The speakers included a wide array of professional businessmen and women, great influencers in the realm of politics, as well as well-known pastors and heads of ministries. Names that drew the large crowds were Franklin Graham, Anne Beiler, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush.

Kimler was in charge of all the media that covered the event, as well as overseeing the extra photographers, hired by Southeastern.  At the end of each day of the three-day event, Kimler was the one responsible for sending out a press release that went to PR Newswire. In the final analysis everything got done, and the event was a huge success but not without a ton of work.

But, Kimler is not a stranger to hard work. He was a writer for five years at the Tampa Tribune and then another five years at the Lakeland Ledger. So when he accepted the position of Public Relations Director at Southeastern he was stepping into a different role. Yet, he said it was not hard to make the adjustment; there was nothing that really surprised him when he started. He has been able to tie a lot of his past work experience into his new job.

In fact, his college degree in journalism and his writing and reporting experience with the Tribune and Ledger have served him well in this key SEU position, writing press releases, communicating with reporters, and producing Southeastern’s 75th Anniversary Tabloid. He says this publication, commemorating Southeastern’s 75th year, is his most prized piece of work, as head of PR.  Kimler was the one assigned to write, research, and design the tabloid written in honor of this important milestone.

According to Kimler, writing plays a big role in public relations, whether it is writing a press release or a statement from the president of the company. However, this former reporter does not see PR as being unique in using the written word. He said, “I think anyone in any business needs to be a good communicator.” With that comes responsibility to tell the truth.

When asked if there is anything he would pass on to young people just starting in the field he said, “One area I would pay a lot of attention to is social media. You need to be aware of it and how it can contribute. Also young people need to know the importance of trust — they need to be ethical and honest and never compromise their ethics or the media will take them apart.”

He continued by explaining that if a company tries to hide the truth, and later it is uncovered, the media will come down hard. Everyone will know what your business did. So when the media gets wind of something that is not going to show the organization in the best light and they call you asking for information Kimler said, “Get it all out at the same time.”

Don’t say a little, and then risk a lot more being discovered in a few days or weeks. If bad news trickles out it means the company reappears in the news again and again, but if it is all released in one shot it may not be good, but it will be less damaging in the long run. Kimler also brought up the point that being honest is simply the ethical thing to do, and he is committed to never compromising his ethics.

Finally, when asked what he does to stay current in the PR industry, Kimler said, “I read Barbara Nixon’s blog.” However, he did not single out himself as being the only one who should have an understanding of public relations. “Every employee in every organization is in Public Relations.” His point here is that one person cannot set the tone of a whole organization, company, school, or business.

Wow, what a great point! Kimler really seemed to have a handle on Public Relations, and he was a great help to me. I feel after my interview with him a lot of things are clearer. I have a better grip on PR and what it looks like as a profession, and it seems a little less intimidating than it did before.

I was primarily surprised by the amount of ethics involved in this field. I told Kimler that I was not particularly thrilled about the idea of going into an occupation that involved so many ethical decisions. Yet, he pointed out that any field I go into is bound to have some level of challenge in this area. So in the long run, I believe I am more likely to pursue a career in PR, as a result of my interview with Mr. Kimler.

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Some Insights from Kneale Mann!

I stare blankly at my computer screen groping for ideas and then groping for words. I feel as if all creativity has been drawn from my mind, like the last drops of water being drawn from an already dry well. So the question becomes to blog or not to blog? What do you do when you want to blog, or better yet start a blog, but don’t know what to write about? According to Kneale Mann you just have to do it.

If you don’t know what to write, just pick something that interests you and start writing. I thought this was some really great advice. I can’t count the number of times I have had writer’s block, when I went to journal on my blog. It was great for me to hear Mann say that he has felt the same way, but regardless he has learned to press through. I was surprised to hear some of Mann’s ideas, in particular the point he made about simply writing about what interests you.

For some reason, I always have thought of a blog as needing to have a particular purpose; to write on a topic just because it is interesting to you never seemed reason enough to me. Yet, now that I think about it, why wouldn’t it be! Kneale Mann also added that part of the benefit of writing, even if you don’t know what to write about, is the increased experience you receive. The more you write the better you get. There were a lot of other things mentioned in the interview I heard between Mann and Barbara Nixon. I wish there would have been more time for Mann to elaborate on his statement about questions.

He said that one way he has gotten better at blogging is just by asking questions. I guess I would have liked to know some of the questions he has asked, and also some of the answers he has received that helped him get to the point where he is now. Anyway just some thoughts, but if you are one of those people who would like to start a blog but don’t know where to begin, have no worries.  Thousands have been in your shoes. The trick is simply doing it. Gradually, thoughts will begin to flow and you will get in the swing of things, even if it takes a little time.

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The Power of Speech

The King’s Speech took center stage at the 2011 Oscars, winning four of the twelve awards it was nominated for. These included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay. Susan Young says this movie has something for everyone. It offers a lot of great ideas for how to be a strong communicator, which is a beneficial trait in any profession.

She gives five communication lessons that can be learned from the movie. I thought her best point was the first one, “Have faith in your voice.” This basically is referring to confidence. If someone believes in themselves and what they are about to say, their presentation will come across a whole lot stronger, than if they do not. People are drawn to leaders, who seem certain and confident in their decisions and identity, because there is an element of security in that.  

The King’s Speech presents a number of other helpful points, such as how to use your voice effectively and how to present yourself in the best way possible, when speaking to a crowd. There is so much to being a great communicator, and although this movie will not teach you everything, it certainly is a fun, good resource to start with. So if you haven’t seen The King’s Speech, take some time to enjoy yourself, watch a great film, and learn a little (or a lot) about how to be a better communicator.

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Free Pancakes!

Stacks and Stacks of pancakes given away, thousands of happy customers, and millions of dollars donated to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since 2006, IHOP has allotted one day each year to give out a free short stack of pancakes to every customer served, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. So, three pancakes for free! The purpose of this promotional offer from the  International House of Pancakes is to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and other charities. So far it has been a huge success. Last year four million pancakes were served and $2.1 million was raised. The goal for this year is $2.3 million. Since IHOP began doing their National Pancake Day in 2006 nearly $5.35 million has been given to charities, and around 10.1 million pancakes have been served.

A friend recently told me about this freebie, but I was skeptical. I figured there had to be a catch. Maybe the purchase of a drink would be required or a side of bacon — just something to ensure a little money came in. But no, it really was three free pancakes with no strings attached. Someone comes by and asks if you want to give to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, but that is it. Everyone wins! The customer gets free pancakes, Children’s Miracle and other charities receive money, and IHOP gets a lot of great publicity! Pretty smart! So, when the 1st of March rolls around next year, remember IHOP and its National Pancake Day.

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What is the Key to a Good Website?

Most of us know how to get someone to look at our website. The problem comes when we have to keep them there. Once they have arrived, what is the magic key to captivating their interest and attention? There may only be a second, one beautiful second, where the reader pauses and thinks to himself/herself, is this really worth my time. People have a short attention span in this digital age, and it is not getting any longer. The trick to having a website that people go to and actually stay on is easy, but at the same time a lot of us miss the mark.

I don’t know if you have ever clicked on a website and found yourself waiting for what seems an eternity, as you watch your mouse go round and round. Finally a hint of color begins to appear and right when things are looking up, an annoying song begins to play. Losing interest quickly, but still a little curious in what the site has to offer you stay. At last the page loads, and you go to find the contact information for the group, but to no avail because it is carefully hidden, so no one will ever find it. As you go through everything, you start to realize it bears a surprising resemblance to the maze at the pumpkin patch, you visited a week ago. Finally frustrated and disappointed, you go back to google and click the next sight that comes up.

Don’t let this be you! To learn more about how to have a good web page, read 7 Things That Annoy Website Visitors. I had never thought in detail about what makes a good site and what doesn’t. But after reading this article, I have a different perspective. If I am ever in a position where I need to design a web page for a business or company, I will remember what I read today with points like the importance of things loading quickly, having an uncluttered appearance, and providing an easy navigation system.

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