Looking for inspiration

“Poetry is when you make new things familiar and familiar things new.” That was one of the closing quote of a TEDGlobal talk from Rory Sutherland about lessons he has learned through advertising. He centered a lot of his points on the idea of how advertising and rebranding is meant to add intangible value to products and I feel that his attitude towards advertising is the perfect way for people to address public relations.

While PR and advertising are extremely different in their methods professionals from both industries look for ways to draw in new life every day. Rory Sutherland talks about how great the concept of placebos are because they technically don’t do anything, but can still illicit a reaction from people. In a way public relations has its own “placebos” that are designed to draw attention without actually making it look like it.

The difference between advertising and PR

Anything from a press release to a well-timed email to a popular blogger is a placebo of sorts. Depending on the circumstance I feel that if PR is done right you shouldn’t even know if anything was really done at all. PR and advertising professionals create an intangible value for companies because in reality they aren’t creating a product; they are creating its delivery.

Most people have probably heard something along the lines of “you could have the greatest product in the world, but it doesn’t matter if no one buys it” and it is interesting to think that with all the options we are given advertising and public relations are the conduit that draws the thin line of perceived differences.

Photo credit: Intersection Consulting via flikr

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The dark side of PR

I just finished reading a post on a blog called Empowered about how many times PR agencies send the one of the authors of the blog irrelevant pitches and I have to admit it’s pretty disheartening. Public relations appears to be an exceptionally young industry, but I really hope that this isn’t the way it’s going to grow.

While it is true that emailing bloggers is a great way to spread a message it’s disappointing when half the industry pumps out cookie cutter emails. I’m not entirely sure there is a better way to do this, but it definitely seems like the industry is dragged down by people who are downright lazy.  Unfortunately there really isn’t any truly necessary training to work in the PR industry, but to succeed in the industry there are so many little things that you need to think about.

What half the PR industry knows

One of the things that really irked the author of the blog was the fact that so many of the emails didn’t have a way to get off the email list. While something as simple as that wouldn’t make or break a career it definitely shapes what kind of person you will be in the industry. So much of good public relations seems to be in the detail, the things people wouldn’t notice until they aren’t there or until they really need them.

Public relations seems like an industry full of early adapters, but does the ability of the industry to quickly utilize new tools make them spend less time on perfecting the method?

 

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Twitter, instructions not included

I made a post earlier about how I felt my twitter was “alive” and I am starting to realize that what I thought to be a completely irrational fear is more real than I previously thought. I just finished reading an article about employees of major companies becoming a risk factor

While this wasn't horrible, mistakes were still made

just by owning a twitter and then posting things that shed a negative light on the business.

I was already well aware of the Kenneth Cole fiasco and I have heard of several others, but I definitely didn’t think it to be as widespread as the post made it seem.  I’ve heard it from practically everybody in the professional world over the age of 25 that I should be very aware of what I post online, but it is surprising to think that some people completely ignore this concept. Many of my classmates hike up the privacy settings on their Facebook, but it seems that new lessons have to be relearned at the dawn of every new social media.

Maybe twitter just makes it easier to be stupid, I mean people see a 140 character limit and you don’t really think about how much harm you could do in only 140 characters. That sentence alone was 171 characters including spaces.

When I first looked at Twitter it seemed like it was such an innocuous entity. I had heard a lot about its popularity before even seeing the sight, but for some reason I feel that when I look at twitter I feel like I’m staring at an online game. With all the tweets, retweets, who follows you, who you follow, and all the other random attention you can receive it’s hard not to get caught up in the flurry of activity.

It could be that Twitter actually makes people stupid. When people walk into a retail store everything from the lighting to the music is meant to illicit a buying sensation and maybe twitter is the social media equivalent. It encourages you to share a sound bite, but neglects to mention it is holding a megaphone.

Maybe the next step in social media education should be focused on teaching people social awareness rather than how to actually use the technology?

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Behind every success there are hundreds of failures

In the past few days I’ve watched the University of Oregon’s dynamic shift as students slowly become more and more reclusive as finals approach. The library becomes a culture all in its own as sleep deprived students march in and out like it’s an ant colony and stores on campus are picked to the bone of energy drinks.

Dead week, the week before finals, has been a historically awful event for the general population of students. While it isn’t as bad as finals week it is a week that stands to remind everyone of what’s to come. Students piece together their final projects and prepare for the worst going into the last days of the terms with the Brightside being a break is just on the other side.

I was reading over a blog post on Garr Reynolds’ blog Presentation Zen and was slightly amused by the heading of the post “Before success comes the courage to fail”. I think this is a brilliant way to go into the final few weeks of school or before taking on any arduous task. While no one wants to start something thinking they will fail I see failure as a great motivator.

A mixture of fear and personal disappointment drives so many students to spend those late nights in the library, frantically trying to learn what they should have spent the past ten weeks learning and the ominous “dead week” definitely helps remind students of possible failures. While this is a macabre way of looking at finals no one can deny that students aren’t spending countless hours in the library out of a love for learning.

Failure, but ultimately fear to fail, is what I feel drives so many people to success in their endeavors. Once you can comprehend the possibility of failure you create the opportunity to take the necessary steps to ensure success.

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Keeping it simple

So with another term coming to a close I will officially be on my penultimate spring term.  With all that in mind I keep having the nagging feeling that I am still far too inexperienced for the working world.

As a way to cope and keep my paranoia in check I find myself reading more and more articles about the job market, internships, and interview skills. I just finished reading a post about the top six things to know for an interview on Porter Novelli’s Intern blog and much of what they had to say was helpful.

While I wasn’t expecting to find some great secret to unlocking the mystery behind interviews it was relieving to see much of what was said were things that I already knew. Does this mean that I am now fully prepared for a fast paced interview? Probably not, but it definitely speaks to how much of the complexity of business is based around just simply being prepared.

So much of what we learn in school is focused the specifics, but it seems that the simple parts of the curriculum will serve us better because of their universal application. The first point made about preparing for an interview is just to do your homework (which sounds awful when you realize homework doesn’t end with school).

While some of the other points are broader or at least seem to be common sense, like be early, it is weird to think that they can be so easily overlooked.  Many of the points rely solely on your ability to connect with other people. Despite the simplicity there is still a lot of substance that needs to be put into those categories before you can really sell yourself in the current job market.

I had a panel of guest speakers in my media sales class today and no matter what aspect they were involved in it seemed what impressed them most were basic human interaction.

Edit: photo credit- thinkpanama via Flikr.com

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Translating the “language of business”

So I am in my third year at the University of Oregon and so far I’ve studied business, public relations, and a bit of advertising.  I feel PR and advertising can relate to business, but not the other way around.

The main problem is that business thinks it is overly complicated. From balance sheets to flow charts everything in business seems to have method or a structure, a piece of bureaucracy that is so utterly confusing you wonder what purpose it really serves.

I recently looked at a post called Social media to the rescue: Getting your brand back on track when a crisis breaks and was shocked at how simple the answers could be to solving a PR nightmare.

If you are a PR student you will without a doubt hear how powerful CEOs muddle about a problem, ultimately leading to a disastrous end. How can these captains of industry let their public image slip so quickly?

CEOs are hired for their skills and fired for their personality. Is that true anymore? There is no doubt in my mind that PR has been carving out a niche in the professional world for some time now, but can CEOs still get away with relying on PR help or do they need to start training in PR themselves?

I personally feel the latter to be true and think it will become more necessary for a PR savvy individual to take the reigns of a company as a paranoid schizophrenic media gazes over companies for any trace of scandal. More often than not people will find the dirt that companies have been trying to hide for so long and it is getting to the point that the

leadership needs to be just as qualified as the professionals they hire.

The businesses that are learning to speak the language of the people are the ones that will survive in the future and the longer it takes for them to adapt the harder they will have it.  By learning to boil their convoluted nature down businesses will learn how easy it can to be a simple and transparent communicator.

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Ready, set, tweet

I think my twitter is alive and it terrifies me. Why does this terrify me?

Well I was reading a blog post about finding out what my social media personality is and it occurred to me that I haven’t done anything with my twitter yet other than follow a handful of random strangers.  When I finally got around to logging on I saw that I had 10 followers; eight random strangers, the University of Oregon account, and an account that promised to help me find local horse races in the UK.

Naturally I was ecstatic that twitter recognized my short lived dream of being a professional horse jockey, but that isn’t what scares me about the whole thing. How did I get 10 followers by adding absolutely nothing of intellectual value and what does my social media personality appear to be to them?

Do they think I am just a twitter zombie, destined to troll the feed and mindlessly re-tweet someone else’s intellectual property or do they think my account is just a lack lustered attempt at social media exploration? Either way it made me think I really need to kick start this social media plan I have going and this blog will be a great place to start.

I always hear that when you want to get something done you should set a goal and tell someone else. So with that in mind I chose to tell the internet, mainly because my roommates aren’t interested and I can barely handle being friends with my dad on Facebook let alone trying to talk to him about the rest of my social media ventures.

While I hope my procrastination doesn’t become bad enough that I need to post my entire social media plan on here, this post will be my declaration to the dedication of building my social media presence on the internet.  Now it’s time to take back my twitter…

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