Passionate Professors Create Passionate Professionals

So much for end of course evaluations, a simple multiple choice evaluation will not do Professor Mullen or her PR 368 course justice. Anyone can get up in front a classroom full of college kids and lecture from a Power Point presentation or assign busy work, but it takes someone passionate and well informed about an area of study to actually teach students anything significant with the added “stickiness factor.” Professor Mullen is one of those passionate professors who goes above and beyond any curriculum set before her. I learned more in these last 15 weeks of classes, than I have in any of my other courses this semester combined. I think the success of those 45 hours of class time can be credited to her teaching style of valuing real life experience and application. Yes there were some days where we had to discuss theories and crack open the book, but it was never presented in a dry manner, but always in an upbeat fashion with real world examples. Professor Mullen re-conditioned the way I view the field of public relations, and through her class, my choice of major was affirmed.

Professor Mullen requested that we treat the class as we would a job, meaning that we attend class everyday unless we have a valid excuse that we could expect to be excused from work for, display great worth ethic, and respect deadlines. In the PR world, deadlines are not something you want to test. If I had a dollar for every time Mullen used the phrase “Your boss won’t accept late work, your story just won’t run!” I could pay off my student loans. But she is so right and this lesson will stick with me forever.

Not only did Professor Mullen’s value of application over theory effect how the class remembered information, but also her use of the stickiness factor, which we read about in “The Tipping Point.” The stickiness factor deals with the way in which material or information is packaged and presented; it also refers to the connections and characteristics of those receiving the message. Professor Mullen specially packaged the course material for her students in a way that it would stick with them well beyond the span of the course.

I enjoyed Mullen’s PR 368 course for many reasons but the main one being that I actually learned something. The class received hands-on experience through a PR campaign with local businesses in Terre Haute, and although it was a little stressful, it was a good indication of the types of things I could be doing in the future. The PR campaign basically took everything we learned throughout the semester and applied it to the real world, which was genius! The campaign did more than a final exam ever could; it tested our knowledge of the material we learned in class through application, as opposed to memorizing and regurgitating information for a written test that will be forgotten as soon as the test is handed in. Professor Mullen made a lasting impression on my view of public relations and has prompted a new passion for my hopeful PR profession.

Writing an Effective Press Release

Photo Credit: Mike Bailey-Gates via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Mike Bailey-Gates via Compfight cc

So what’s the point of a press release you might ask? The purpose of a press release is to obtain free publicity for an event, accomplishment, a major change, or to make an announcement. In order for a company’s promotion or announcement to be advertised, the press release needs to land in the hands of someone or something influential that can reach out to a variety of publics….uh hello how about the media! To better understand what a press release is lets’ take a look at the “life,” if you will, of a press release.

A public relations professional drafts up a well angled and informative press release promoting an upcoming event or some life changing announcement, such as the fact that Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes are now available year round (that’ll be the day). Once the press release is created, the PR professional then distributes it to appropriate media sources. The journalists, editors, or radio station managers then sort through hundreds of other press releases that are seeking publicity as well, and pick ONE of which to run a story. That chosen press release then gets FREE publicity for their event or announcement.

How then does one press release rise to the top of an editor, journalist, or radio station editor’s stack of papers? If you want your press release to stand out from all the other crumpled press releases sporting coffee stains and bad grammar, that sit on the desk of a disheveled journalist who reads press releases day after day that all sound the same, you’ll want to keep the following in mind.

Relevance to your Audience

If your announcement or event is not important to your audience then what’s the point in requesting the media run a story about it? Not only does the content need to possess significance to the audience, but the media outlet you choose also needs to be one that caters to your intended audience. For instance, you’re probably not going to want to send in a press release about the release of the new IPhone 6 to a newspaper catered to an elderly community. Just like you wouldn’t send a press release about Obama Care to a magazine editor for Seventeen or Glamour.

Appropriate Angle

If you feel your announcement is applicable to more than one audience it is definitely okay to distribute it to more than one media outlet, however, you’ll want to culminate different messages for the different audiences. Different audiences will have varied background knowledge, for example you won’t use the same language when writing to a marine biology magazine as you would a local newspaper.

Short and Sweet

The clarity of a press release is just as important as the language and angle you use. A good press release is a concise one. In order to bring clarity to your press release it needs to be obvious as to what you are announcing and it shouldn’t take editors very long to learn the details. Details such as who, what, when, where, and why are all imperative to a press release. To convey these details, use short paragraphs and simple sentences.

Show Don’t Tell

Don’t bother loading your press release with flowery opinions and embellishing phrases meant to promote your company, because what journalist is going to publish a story about a company who brags on themselves? Save that writing style for your pitch or article, and just include the facts. Remember, you can show your audience how great you are without explicitly telling them in a press release. After all, actions speak louder than words.

It’s the little Things

Last but certainly not least, proof read everything and triple check for grammar mistakes. The last thing an editor wants to read over is a press release full of errors; this tells the editor that you don’t care about your event or announcement enough to edit it, so why should they waste their time publishing it? An act of such laziness will earn your press release a spot at the bottom of the editor’s stack, never to be published or awarded its free ticket to publicity.

 

Selfies at Chelsea’s

Photo Credit: just for fun ^^ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: just for fun ^^ via Compfight cc

As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we see many organizations working to support the individuals diagnosed with breast cancer, the families affected, and the research working to develop a cure to this all too prevalent disease. Chelsea’s, a boutique in Terre Haute Indiana’s Honey Creek Mall, recently hosted an event to raise money and awareness for breast cancer.

Chelsea’s second annual Pink Party was held yesterday, October 26, 2014, from open to close at their store in Terre Haute’s local mall. They invited everyone to come in and celebrate with them by indulging in sweet treats, contests, giveaways and much more. Guests were invited to dress in pink in correlation with their “Pretty in Pink” theme. The Pretty in Pink theme not only meant that employees and guests were invited to dress up in pink, but also throw a spin on their outfits and dress in 80’s style. Those who stopped in the boutique were encouraged to make donations to contribute to the research for finding a cure for breast cancer. There was also much fun to be had by participating in the Selfie Contest to be entered to win a Pink Swirls tote with a matching water bottle. The featured Vera Bradley pattern, Pink Swirls “is filled with bright pinks and happy hues,” and everyone is sure to love it. The selfies contest is a great campaign to get guests actively involved and prompt donations and fun. Who doesn’t want to pose for selfies in all pink to show support for such a great cause?!

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Chelsea’s event yesterday, but I do commend the boutique for hosting the party and supporting such a significant cause. So many people are affected by this disease whether it be directly or indirectly. I for one have not experienced it first hand, but I experienced it alongside my grandmother who was diagnosed early last year. Thankfully the cancer was caught early enough that it could be removed before it spread further and took over. However, that is not always the case, and many are not as fortunate as my grandmother. So here’s to Chelsea’s for supporting the cause, the survivors, the ones who were claimed by the disease, and the research to help find a cure and put an end to the disease.

Coffee With Caroline

Caoline and I after our interview over a cup of coffee.

Caroline and I after our interview over a cup of coffee.

I recently had the privilege of meeting with Caroline Kirkwood, a 2014 Butler University graduate, over the absolute meeting essential, a cup of coffee, or should I say a grande, iced caramel macchiato. Caroline is an extremely unique and outgoing individual with a bubbly personality, so much so that I never would’ve guessed her original major in college to be pharmacy. Caroline, who was good friends with my sister in the pharmacy program at Butler University, learned after her first few semesters in the program that “drugs” just weren’t her thing. After switching her pursuit from pharmacy to strategic communication, Caroline discovered her true passion. She found that she preferred the freedom that public relations and media offered; the freedom to express her creativity through writing and design, and to employ her bubbly personality.

Caroline Kirkwood works doubly as the media and public relations coordinator for Miller Brooks Incorporated. Her internships and hard work throughout college landed her this professional job right after graduation. Her rapid job placement and the responsibilities she’s been trusted with already, such as solely running the media department on her own at Miller Brooks Incorporated, are a testament to undergraduates that the internships and connections you make while in college are imperative.

While Caroline was entrusted with the large task of heading the entire media department soon after landing the job, she also acknowledged the fact that she had a lot of help from other colleagues. She made it a point to convey the importance of asking others for help. Often times professionals avoid asking for help for fear that they will seem weak, when in reality, and in Caroline’s case, asking for help can benefit the entire company and one’s future. Those in your department will see that you want to grow and learn and will commend you for your efforts. Trying to prove oneself by tackling everything alone puts a tremendous amount of stress on an individual and if you don’t know what you’re doing it can easily backfire and result in a disaster.

Asking for help can also be in the context of asking for referrals for internships or interviews. Caroline advised that if you know someone in a company that you’re applying to work or intern at, to ask them for help. Those within the company will most likely put in a good word for you and possibly get you an interview or even help you land the job.

Not only did Caroline expound upon the importance of asking for help, but also the importance of loving what you do. For Caroline, she knew early on in her pursuit for a pharmacy degree that she wasn’t going to enjoy being a pharmacist for the rest of her life. Instead of sucking it up and trudging forward with the program, Caroline decided to explore other possibilities. She found that she enjoyed being analytical AND creative which led her to find her true passion in media and public relations. In short, never settle!

Talking with Caroline about her job and gaining insight into what a “typical” work week looks like (nothing in the world of public relations is ever typical) has affirmed my declaration as a public relations major. I can’t wait to be thrown into the hectic world of PR knowing that I will be excited to go to work, even on Mondays, because it’s something I love to do.

“Stay Up and Make Some Memories”

Flicker by confidence, comely

Flicker by confidence, comely

There are many different perspectives of what Homecoming at Indiana State University is all about. For some, homecoming means getting all decked out in our blue and white attire, participating in the events during the week leading up to the big football game on Saturday, or it may mean getting vulgar t-shirts made and participating in “The Walk,” a bar hopping event that has become a nonofficial part of the homecoming tradition here at ISU. Others understand homecoming to be the one day out of the year when Wabash Avenue isn’t clogged with traffic, and they can watch the parade procession eagerly awaiting the opportunity to collect candy that may just have to suffice as their meal for the day. Some students prefer to only observe homecoming by cheering on the Sycamores at the football game, while others choose not to observe this campus wide event at all.

I however, have recently come to associate homecoming week with the lack of sleep. While trying to keep up with homework, homecoming activities, work, and other responsibilities, it is easy to miss out on sleep. It’s only Wednesday, the third day of our exciting homecoming week at ISU, and I’m already drained. As a member of the Greek community, I am vastly involved in the various homecoming activities such as the Trike Race. To explain, it’s just like it sounds… college kids riding around in circles on large scale tricycles. Don’t let the 3 wheels fool you though, the race is actually intense and it requires weeks of practice!

As if participating in these activities isn’t enough, I also have the responsibility of planning a part of a homecoming event known as Tent City. As the Vice President of Alumnae and Heritage for my sorority, I am in charge of organizing our entity of Tent City, the ultimate tailgate for alumnae before the big game. Planning for our alumnae tent includes, ordering the tent, planning the menu, buying decorations, inviting alumnae, and making gifts for each alumna in attendance. As an aspiring event planner, I fortunately have enjoyed the time I’ve put forth in orchestrating my sorority’s tent for this upcoming weekend.

Dave Mathew’s famous lines from his song “So Right,” “stay up and make some memories,” has been my sole motivation this week. Although I am quickly tiring, I wouldn’t trade the memories I’m making during homecoming week for anything, not even sleep. Besides, you can sleep when you’re dead right?! If you gain anything from this blog post, let it be my encouragement to submerge yourself in homecoming activities and to make the most of your college years! If you’re exhausted and all “spirited” out by the end of the week, then you’ve done homecoming right!

Caution: Be careful not to dismiss your school work during the excitement of homecoming week. Keep in mind, school comes first.

Where’s Ashton?!

Johnny Vulkan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Johnny Vulkan via Compfight cc

Well, unfortunately, Ashton Kutcher (producer and host of Punk’d, a reality TV show that films practical jokes) is not hear to jump out from behind a bush and announce that “You’ve been Punk’d!” The Lehman Brothers Bank will have to take the fall, face first, without the rescue of Ashton Kutcher’s comic relief.

Lehman Brothers was a large scale investment bank who was ironically named the “#1 Most Admired Securities Firm” by Fortune Magazine in 2007, just one year prior to the unveiling of their $50 million scandal, “Repo 105” (Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture).

On September 15, 2008, the 4th largest investment bank in America threw their hands up and filed bankruptcy. After filing bankruptcy, it was discovered that Lehman Brothers had been hiding their debt from the public for some time. But how were they doing it? Lehman Brothers Bank hid their financial debts by trading out their “unhealthy assets” for large sums of money from banks in the Cayman Islands. The two banks had the understanding that Lehman Brothers would pay back the money within a short period of time, along with low interest rates. This may not seem like an unethical act but just you wait.

Instead of marking this transaction as a “loan,” on their financial reports, the bank reported it as a “sale.” A sale, as many of you know, is a transaction through which the money is not meant to be paid back, however, Lehman Brothers had planned all along to give it back. They had to pay the money back to the banks in Cayman Islands in return for their “unhealthy assets” or more simply put, their debt. Have I confused you yet? Don’t be discouraged, I had to read over this case several times before I could wrap my head around it!

In short, Lehman Brothers traded their debt for $50 million dollars, kept the money long enough to publish a financial report that would portray stable investments, then return the money and be handed back their own debt. This misleading technique camouflaged their actual finances and, “inflated the value of their company” (Dylan Rattigan, MSNBC).

Not only was Lehman Brother’s at fault for the unethical behavior of conducting misleading and deceitful business, but their CEO, Richard Fuld, and their accounting firm, Ernest and Young, were both aware of the temporary movement of assets to hide debts, and did nothing to stop it.

If I were Lehman Brothers’ public relations representative, I would have encouraged them to be upfront with the public early on about their financial struggles. Had they been honest about their struggles, they may in fact have lost some credibility, however, a redeemable amount, but they would’ve been able to avoid this scandal all together. Instead, they broke the number one rule in public relations, which is NEVER LIE, and caused the demise of their own company. They let the deception get too far out of hand were caught red handed.

Since being caught, not much has been done. Five years after the “crime” was uncovered, CEO Richard Fuld is still living comfortably, refusing to entertain interviews or even offer an apology for the $50 million scandal, Repo 105 (Aaron Task, Daily Ticker). The lack of justice being served, in my opinion, is unethical as well. The government is essentially letting the company off the hook, encouraging others to take advantage of the system and impose deceit. They now have an excuse to commit the same “crime” as Lehman Brothers did, and walk away without paying the consequences, besides drowning one’s company in debt.

Where are Fuld’s public relations representatives?! Why aren’t they encouraging him to apologize and to begin clearing his name and reputation?! Unfortunately, I believe Fuld may be right in laying low; I don’t think his behavior or the behavior Lehman Brothers Bank at large is forgivable. I also do not foresee a resurrection of either him as an individual or the bank as a trusted company. They have successfully hurt the company’s long-term existence.

 

 

Blogging 101

Photo Credit: DeclanTM via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DeclanTM via Compfight

Blogging is a fun way to journal through your thoughts or to write about things you are interested in with a creative twist. It’s an opportunity for your voice to be heard, well maybe not the literal sound of your voice, but for your ideas to be circulated throughout the web of bloggers. Although blogging is meant to be an outlet for you to express your thoughts or even as an escape for some, there is an art to being an effective blogger. In my opinion an effective blogger writes about things they are passionate about, doesn’t worry about word count, uses catchy titles, and is transparent, meaning they are themselves.

I’ve heard it said many times, we share about, what we care about, and this is so true. I could muster up some uninteresting response to any given topic but it shouldn’t be difficult to write a blog. You should be writing about things you are passionate about so your readers become interested as well. Believe me, readers can tell when you are interested in a topic and when you could care less. Don’t be that blogger who is bland and their topics seem forced. Be that blogger who writes with zeal and creativity! Be that blogger who shares about what they care about!

After identifying your topic, one that sparks your interest, be sure to give it a catchy title so it sparks the interest of your readers as well. A title is very important, if not the most important part of your blog. If you don’t have a catchy title you aren’t going to draw your readers in and your blog will go unread.

Word limits are for the birds, unless of course you’re writing a blog assignment for a course, then word limits are for you. If you find yourself having to stretch or cram your thoughts and ideas to fit a page or word count requirement, then odds are your message is going to be lost and your readers will become apathetic .

Last but certainly not least, I think an effective blogger is a transparent blogger. It is vital to be yourself; that’s what makes a blogger unique isn’t it? It is not the eloquent words or the perfectly choreographed phrases, but it is a blogger’s own personality and flair that we are attracted to. We follow particular bloggers to gain insight concerning things they care about and even to learn about them as an individual. By conforming to other writers’ styles, it essentially defeats the purpose of a blog if you are presenting ideas you don’t necessarily care about, or are trying to sound like an academic scholar when you just don’t fit the bill.

I have found that I may not be an eloquent writer but I do enjoy writing and expressing my thoughts. I’ve learned that I don’t always need to be caught up in the logistics and technicalities of writing, I just need to write! So I encourage you, just write! Use your own flair, your own ideas, and just roll with it!