Monday, December 3, 2012

Art you Glad you Finished the Final Project?

When we were given the scenarios for our final project I had no hesitation choosing the one regarding art.  The art and culture scene in Winnipeg is unmatched in cities of our size and is something we should all be very proud of.  We have such a vibrant and creative city!  My strategic PR Plan, Winnipeg Art Tour, outlines what I would do if I were retained by a coalition of three galleries to increase business and bring in new customers.  I have included some of the below links as references in the plan, but want to highlight that there are some great resources out there to discover more about our rich and diverse art culture! 

Tourism Winnipeg

The Exchange District

WAG (The WAG is celebrating its 100th year!)

Winnipeg Kiosk

Government of Manitoba Arts Branch

Now, back to business.

The last twelve weeks have served as an exceptional learning juncture, and I am very grateful for all of the effort our instructor and my peers have put into this class to make it one of the best I have taken.  This class forced me out of my comfort zone, and has lead me to discover some new passions.  I will be forever grateful and now feel that I have a solid foundation on which to build a future in PR. 

Au revoir, Fundamentals of Public Relations I!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Penny for my thoughts?

Comment #4

The article I commented on can be found here.

We now have the means to discover the validity behind everything we are told.   Social media makes businesses and people accountable for their actions.  Same token, this makes the PR professional accountable.  The reason why transparency and the image are important to the younger generation is that those things are of fundamental importance to our publics.  Standardized measurement tools are important because we work to create relationships and deliver messages via mediums where quantity, anonymity, and popularity (trends with a shelf-life) reign supreme.   

You hit the nail on the head when you talked about the need for senior professionals to share their knowledge and expertise with young practitioners.  Mentorship is essential to help focus us so we don’t waste time and energy trying to recreate the wheel.  Changing priorities and focus require us to be adaptable, otherwise we get left behind.  Luckily if any profession is adept to change, it is PR. 

This study isn’t surprising at all; we define ourselves through our environment and experiences.  There is always a divide between generations – even as a relatively young Generation Y member I am not immune, as so crudely exemplified in this satirical video.  We need to stop fixating on differences and work together to create relevant communication strategies that transcend those gaps to shape the future of PR.


Comment #3

The article I commented on can be found here.

"I wholeheartedly agree that everything you post online becomes a reflection of yourself, nothing you post is private or can be taken back, and safety should always be paramount.  The rest of the items on this list I don’t agree with.  Thinking about this Swedish proverb may provide some perspective as to why people post the items you find annoying. 

What would you do if someone in your office were acting in a manner you did not like?  If it weren’t worth mentioning you wouldn’t and would change your behaviour, to likely avoid him/her.   If you were the only offensive person in your office it would be really unrealistic and selfish to expect everyone else to conform to your behaviour.  Much is the same here.  If you find nothing else, there is one thing all these posts are good for - what better way to discern whether you have much in common with an old friend/acquaintance/classmate and promptly delete them if you feel you don’t.  Even if you do not want to go to the extreme and delete friends, there are myriad of other mechanisms you can employ to ensure you only have posts that you find interesting in your newsfeed.  

When you comment publicly about your dislike for these posts you now become an offender of the very actions you’re condemning.  The parents and happy couples are just being positive about it, and regardless if it’s actually how you feel, you look bitter.

Much like Jennifer Elliot’s comment, I am personally way more put off by reading someone’s impending divorce unfold, unintelligent bantering with people, obnoxious opinion pushing/ignorance, chain letter(esque) items, and grammatically incorrect memes than anything on this list."    


Comment # 2

The link to the article I replied to can be found here.

Image credit

"Almost as bad as not responding is asking your fans to forward their questions on to a medium no one is monitoring.

I was on a Facebook page and there was a company representative responding to wall posts requesting the user send a private message for an answer.  On more than one occasion the user mentioned he/she had previously and never received a response.   Seeing this reminded me of being on hold and having that lovely monotone recording say, “Your call is important to us, please stay on the line…”  You look like you’re either feigning interest, or you’re just insincere.
It's completely understandable that companies get inundated with messages/mail asking the same questions, making the same comments/complaints, or just saying fluff.  It's impossible to respond to everything so that's what a company's "About" section, FAQs, and links are for.  You can also reply to the fluff ones much like Bodyform did – what a brilliant way to engage your audience, but I digress.

It’s important for companies to realize if they’re going to promote their brand on social media they can't pick and choose aspects of it to suit them.   Much like prior posters have lamented in their comments; companies are missing a solid opportunity to improve their brand, garner interest in products, and potentially get their next big idea."



Comment #1

The link to the article I replied to can be found here

"I have just started learning about PR and it’s refreshing to read about philosophies from almost 100 years ago that are still completely relevant today.  Having studied a lot of outdated and incomplete theories (both important in its own right) - it’s something to behold seeing a theory transcend that realm and become practical application.  Sadly, that does not happen very often.

I believe it was Bernays's amalgamation of ideas/theories from various disciplines that allow his philosophy to pass the test of time.   The way you do business evolves as markets and technology do, but the premise of the PR professional remains constant.  Completely agree with Nesima  - Berneys’s definition leaves no room for ambiguity.        

It is very unfortunate that to this day many associate negative connotations to the profession because of campaigns run almost 100 years ago.   Creating the shift in perception is made more difficult by the ‘background’ functions of the profession, along with the difficulty in (I believe) defining it.  

Thank you for sharing this article, it has opened my eyes a bit more to the profession."


Hit right on Target with tactics

Target is coming to Canada!  I have been waiting with bated breath for the day to come in 2013 when stores will open here in Winnipeg.  The brand is synonymous with quality at a great price, and their focus is on everyday people.  Whether you’re a family of five, a student, or somewhere in between there is something in a Target store that will appeal to you.   The difference between Target and other discount retailers is there is absolutely no compromise on quality just because you pay low prices.  Everyone wants more for less, and Target delivers.  

The most spectacular thing about Target, in my opinion, is that it brings typically unattainable (or impracticable) high fashion within grasp.  Target makes it possible to deck the whole family out in designer duds without breaking the bank.  They have collaborations with high-end retailers along with features from various designers (like Prabal Gurung).  The amalgamation of high-end and discount price is what differentiates the brand from its competitors.  Wearing designer clothing congers up feelings of exclusivity and luxury, and saving money brings personal satisfaction.  

Most Canadians, especially the ones the brand focuses on, are familiar with the company and likely shop at the retailer while in the United States.  There is little added value in creating a PR campaign to let consumers know about a brand they’re familiar with, but a staged event would receive wide public and media attention.  The most notable stunt Target has employed would be Marina.  Employing such stunts all over Canada would be exorbitant but fashion shows, staged in the cities where Target is opening, showcasing the items designed exclusively for the company would garner a lot of attention and pique public interest.   Displaying items for women, men, and children will illustrate inclusivity and influence shopping decision makers to make Target their ‘go-to’ discount retailer.  

Coupling the stunts with a social media campaign, aimed at consumers in cities that will have a Target opening in the future, will allow people to engage with the brand without participating in an event.  The media attention received from the campaign will have a residual effect, paving the way for the retailer to expand within the country without having to expend large future resources.

Target provides the opportunity to look great while being frugal and practical.   
 There is a reason that designers associate themselves with the brand and soon Canadians will get chance to see why first-hand, without having to worry about duty-free limits. 


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pot, I would like you to meet Kettle.

I wish it were not the case, but nothing quite makes me as anxious as not having access to the internet.   Beyond research (Google) and entertainment, I namely use the internet to connect via social media (Facebook).  I know that every piece of information I place online no longer becomes my own, nor can I ever take it back so I am pretty cognisant of what I post.  I do find it quite disconcerting that after doing a few searches or checking out a few pages most of the advertisements are related to whatever it was I was just looking at (or what I look at most often).   Nothing really drives home the aphorism, 'If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold' quite like it.  Admittedly, I do not read the fine print when I check the box accepting all of the new terms and conditions for using a site partially because I want to continue to use the internet in my semi-ignorant state.  This is a conscious choice, plus, some days I do really want to know which 8 foods can banish belly fat…

This brings me to discuss a particular PR campaign that not only failed miserably, but was quite reminiscent of a grade school politics with the two aforementioned companies.  In May 2011 it was  discovered that Facebook was behind hiring a prominent PR firm to secretly wage a smear campaign against Google.  The focus of the campaign was to highlight the collection of personal information for Google Social Circles (no longer in existence) by infringing on the privacy rights of consumers.   Here are some of the email exchanges.   Privacy concerns are a hot topic with publics, so why did this campaign fail?  

If you Google (ha ha) “Google privacy violations” it’s quite obvious that the company has a slight reoccurring problem in the department.  Facebook has the same issues respecting privacy of users, and that's where the irony of this whole campaign comes in (to be kind we won't discuss this being an issue).  If you read the email exchanges you can see that Facebook had a ton of valid information, but the way they went about ‘exposing the truth’ was haphazard.  Key issues with the campaign were that the feature had been in used for a few years but was being presented as new, the audience was inappropriate, and the medium strategy was not well thought-out.  The publics focused on were probably familiar with the feature in question.   They were also very informed and inquisitive, without doubt going to question the source before passing it on.  In the end the PR campaign did nothing but make the PR firm and their client look bad.

All of these blunders could have been prevented with more research, and planning.  It's really easy to get caught up in the action parts of a campaign when you know what you want your end state to be.  Publics are sophisticated, and much like they do not appreciate ‘newsjacking’ after a disaster, they do not appreciate a company trying to undermine them under the guise their best interest is in mind.  If you have a great product, or a valid piece of information that obviously could be beneficial to your publics don't ruin it with a poorly-planned PR campaign!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The recipe calls for 3 cups reputation, ¼ cup engagement, and a dash of edginess…

Image credit

Although researchers at The University College London are claiming that ‘happy accidents’ a.k.a. serendipity moments are no accident, it does not mean you can rely on them to make your PR campaign an effective one.  There is definitely some great timing required which you can chalk up to luck, but unless you have a well-researched and planned out campaign all of the luck in the world isn’t going to help you.  With the added pressures of budget and time restraints a PR pro cannot afford anything other than getting their campaign right the first time.

Luckily there are a multitude of methods you can employ, which are completely customizable, to get you the most salient data for your campaign.  If you are trying to examine a particular issue, or discover something then you may want to employ primary research methods such as surveys, interviews, polls, and focus groups.  These are usually quite expensive, and if sample size, question format, or quantifying subjective ideas so they can be measured is not done correctly you will not get accurate results.  Most of us use secondary research in our daily lives when we look at existing data and information, and using it for a PR campaign is just as effective.  These campaigns cost much less, trends are apparent, you get extensive information in large areas, and data is easily measured. 

Regardless of which method you choose you will be conducting research for the same reason.  You want to know who you publics are, how they feel, what’s important to them, thereby where you should focus the most time, money, and energy.  The formative research is the difficult part, but it is going to ensure you are running your campaign effectively and efficiently.  Without completing the formative research you run the risk of missing your target audience, sending them the wrong message, sending them extraneous and irrelevant information (zero value added at a high cost), and having your product/brand ignored.  When you put the effort into doing the appropriate research and correctly interpret your results this translates into the most tangible measure – dollars and market share.  Your social media presence and popularity can be measured by social media measurement tools, a positive reputation and customer loyalty will endure long after your campaign has ended.   Once your campaign has been completed you will do some evaluative research, which is especially important if your campaign is not as successful as anticipated.  This will provide you with invaluable secondary research for any future campaigns, and a great opportunity to learn from your mistakes. 

There is no measurable combination of qualities that will determine how your PR campaign will turn out.  What from outward appearances seems to be completely subjective – perceptions, opinions, ideas, and beliefs can be quantified.  This is done through (proper) research.   You only make the sophistication of the extrapolation, interpretation, and translation of that data look like luck because you were so prepared.     

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interview with Shelly Smith-Hines

Image Courtesy of
Her name is Shelly Smith-Hines (LinkedIn), and she has over 15 years of experience with event planning, fundraising, sponsorship, marketing, proposals, presentations, promotions, and everything in between in both the non-profit and for-profit world.  She is currently the Manager of Marketing and Promotions for Bell Media Radio Winnipeg and a member of the Certified Meeting Professional  (CMP) and Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) professional organizations.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Geography and History from the University of Manitoba, but has obtained a lot of her myriad of experience through life-lessons.   Read on to discover her PR journey.


Did your education prepare you for working in the industry?

I was going to be a teacher, but the more time I spent thinking about what the day to day job would be it didn’t appeal to me. I finished university but got quite sick just before the end of my last year, and had to go home close to 9 months. I am from a small town in North Western Ontario and everyone is connected. I ended up working at a child development centre for the wife of one of the university teachers that my family was close to. I worked with her planning meetings and marketing for different programs. I learned a lot through trial and error from the school of hard knocks and that’s what set me on my path. I learned a lot at university, mostly about life, but not a lot about what I would end up doing. There is a lot to be said for education and the formal end of things, but there is so much more to be said for the connections and networking. The formal education is so much more important now than it was then [when she started], because it will open the door, but the ability to network and connect with people is huge.

How did you get to where you are today?

My first real big break was doing a lot of the event planning and marketing for the Folk Arts Council of Winnipeg, which is Folklorama , and I did that for 5 years. That was a huge engagement opportunity that was a ton of fun. You get to meet people from every culture in the city, and because it’s a festival and everyone is having fun you make some great connections – many that I still keep in contact with to this day, and will keep in touch with for the rest of my life.

From there I went to the  Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba for 6 years doing the community events and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic planning, which to this day, is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had. If there were more growth opportunity there for my career I would have stayed, without question.

I did a few contracts after leaving the Children’s Hospital Foundation which worked well for certain aspects of my life, but did not provide the flexibility I was looking for long-term.

After that, I went to work with The MS Society of Canada, which I did for five years, and loved it. It is a great organization - they are one of the most innovative non-profits going, there was a lot of collaboration across the country which I got involved with. I was on the National Sponsorship Team, did a lot of presentations and training at different conferences and I really enjoyed it.

Then this opportunity came along, and it was unlike anything I had ever done. I had also received an offer with a non-profit at the same time. I thought to myself, “I want to diversify my portfolio.” I had a few friends that worked in the industry and spoke with one that worked in a similar position with a different radio group. He said, “You will never be bored!” which I think translates to ‘you will never stop working!’ [laughs] I love it – there is never a dull moment and I feel lucky to be here. Our local leader is innovative and he has done every position within the building. I cannot say enough about his ability to lead and nurture our growth.

Tell me about a project that you worked on that you are especially proud of.

With the MS Society I changed the way that we did sponsorship, and ended up getting us hundreds of thousands more [dollars] than we would have had without the change. I am probably most proud of that. I spoke at conferences and wrote a few articles that went along with that, and it is still a model they continue to use. It was by no means a model that I developed, but it was something that I had learned through a few very intelligent people that are still engaged in what I do today.

What has surprised you the most in working with PR/Promotions?

What is most surprising is the rate at which things are changing. Unless you have the flexibility and ability to move with the times, there is much that changes so quickly, you can fall behind really fast.  

How important is writing in your career?

It is about to become more important. We write proposals for clients that are value-added to any sales campaign going out. What we have done in the past has been far too clinical, and we’re about to shift the focus to detailing the benefit to our client. During my life in non-profit all of my sponsorship packages had at least a page and a half of information about the client and what I had learned from talking with them. During our discussions they told me their needs and desires, I came back to them with what we had to offer. Great writing comes from great listening. You don’t have to be the most eloquent writer, but if you can prove to someone that you have understood and actually heard them, how can they say no to your proposal?

Do you believe that Social Media has changed how you do things?

Yes, it has on several fronts. There is so much more that you have to be aware of, even on your personal accounts. There really is no such thing as a personal page anymore – if you list your company, connect with partners, sponsors, or anyone you have business connections with it is no longer a personal page. Anything and everything you say is reflected on yourself and the company and I am continually conscious of that. Once you say something it’s out there and cannot be undone, every word you put out there and every picture you post is forever. The announcers do a lot of the blogging and posting, so we remind them to be cognisant of that. There are also great positives to it as well – it provides a great opportunity to engage a large group of people. The beauty and objective of any post is that it can get picked up virally. The number of people that have ‘Liked’ a page isn’t really important, so many people focus on that, and it’s great but unless that information is passed on it hasn’t made a connection with anyone. Any post that you put out needs to be thoughtful, but there still needs to be some ‘organic flow’ to it. I am not a fan of the expression, but it cannot appear to be scripted or insincere. If you want to see a great example of that check out the @LAKings during the 2011 playoffs. There were real comments from real guys about what was happening and they did a great job.

Describe a typical work week.

It’s not a Monday to Friday 9 – 5 job; it’s a Monday to Sunday whenever-the-phone-goes-off kind of a job. There are days that are 18+ hours, but there are days in the summer that you get the opportunity to take off on a beautiful afternoon and enjoy the weather.

Radio is unique - it is a lot different than many other mediums and you can change things on a dime. If someone calls me today to let me know they need something changed, it gets changed.

I have a team of two other people that I work with, along with our part-time folks. I could not do this job without my Coordinator Amy Houston and Assistant Travis Mitchell – we’re a comprehensive team and everyone works closely together. We are appropriately positioned in the building in the middle because we have a huge balancing act between the programming end of things and the sales end of things. How do you make the clients and advertisers happy, that are bringing in dollars, and still not compromise the content that is put on the air for the listeners. It’s an interesting little juggling act.

If I had to give a ‘typical’ explanation of the week:

Mondays are a follow-up from the weekend and prep for the rest of the week. Tuesdays we have our promotional meeting to discuss how we will execute any promotional campaign that comes in. The team splits up the work discussed during the promotional meeting for the week.  Following the promo meeting I will typically have a 3 hour teleconference with the Bell Media Review Panel. So any logo or usage of corporate images or branding has to be reviewed by this panel. Wednesday we try to make sure we have all of the scripting, which is called ‘liners’, prizing, and report guides put together. Travis will work on making sure that all the proposals we have that will include a liner are provided to the announcers so they can review them the following week. Thursday we are trying to wrap up any proposals that we have promised for the week. Friday we review of where we’re at, and what is going on during the weekend.

You can have a perfectly laid out plan for the day with a checklist and by the end of the day worked your tail off and not checked off one single item. We impact so many different people within so many different departments, your day can get hijacked at any moment, and you need to be able to flow with that.

What do you wish you had known before starting your career?

The differences from a non-profit and for-profit company on the money side end of things. So I would not have had to learn that one the hard way. It would be nice to have a crystal ball to see how things are going to morph and change, and how quickly. That being said, I wouldn’t be here if I didn`t enjoy it.

What are three tips you would offer to someone just starting out in the industry?

1.  Make Connections! Especially if you are a student, so many of us are so willing to talk to people. Take advantage of student rates for membership to professional organizations. There are a lot of social media groups on LinkedIn I would connect to. Don’t use it like Facebook and add people indiscriminately, but never decline a LinkedIn invitation because there is a reason that person wants to connect to you and you just do not know it yet.

2.  When you look at moving into the industry, go and interview people. Don’t be afraid to do this, even if it is not for a class project. The more you can do that the better. When I was starting out my mentor told me to do this. There may not be any positions open at a company, but you’ll get an in-depth look at so many different opportunities. Ask for 15 minutes of a manager’s time to interview them, and respect that time.

3.  Talk to headhunters so they have your information on hand. You never know what opportunities may spring up.

The brands Shelly Smith-Hines represents

I really cannot thank Shelly enough for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to speak with me and give me a snapshot of her professional world.  As I had mentioned in my first blog post - this industry is wrought with hard work, but the rewards are endless.  Speaking with Shelly has done a lot to inspire and encourage me and I feel a deep inner excitement to see where this road will take me.  It has always appealed to the part of me that requires a fast-paced, dynamic, and challenging work environment.  She has also reiterated something we have heard Samantha Lapedus discuss in class - this industry is a group of personality traits and the instincts needed are learned.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"But I don't need to try it, I already know I don't like it."

I finally ate relish for the first time about two years ago.  I was convinced, until that point, that I knew everything there was to know about relish and I just wasn't going to like it.  That sounds ridiculous, and it really is.  Regardless of the ability to exercise logic and apply our knowledge, even the most open-minded and aware of us can have some pretty ignorant perceptions. 

If you asked me what I thought about PR before I learned a little about it I would have told you it was Samantha Jones with a splash of propaganda-chucking spin doctor.  

Although I was secretly hoping that PR was exactly how Samantha from Sex and the City portrayed it, I thought better of it.  The show makes PR seem quite glamourous and fun, all without having to exert a ton of effort.  From what I have learned so far PR is anything but easy – it’s constantly watching, reading, and thinking a few steps ahead of the curve to stay relevant.  At times doing some serious damage control, and influencing to ensure publics have the best possible opinion of the client you represent.   It takes a long time to make all of your careful planning, researching, and deliberate communication appear effortless to the outside world.

It really surprised me that PR had such a grand scope, and how far a reach a PR professional can really have.  You have to be a pretty well-oiled machine with a vast skill-set to be successful.  The opportunities you have are borne from the seeds you’ve planted, but are nothing without some great timing and the ability to know when to strike (or discard).   

Part of what has piqued my interest the most about PR is how dynamic and creative it is. It appears to provide the ability to practically apply my love for the acquisition of knowledge, and proclivity to research to find the most appropriate solution to a problem.  The sophistication behind determining how your publics feel and then influencing a change in their opinion is especially fascinating.  I still have a really broad perception of what PR is, and cannot wait to learn more about the constituent parts. 

Even if we believe we do not need to, it’s important to reevaluate our perceptions to ensure they’re still relevant from time to time.  The enlightenment of your hamburger experience is probably going to be the smallest benefit.