Name: Tressa Robbins
Bio: A country girl at heart, who loves the city, I’ve worked in marketing/public relations, consultative sales, and media relations for the better part of over 20 years. The skills acquired from these positions come in handy in my present role as Implementation Vice President at BurrellesLuce and in my role as President of the St. Louis chapter of PRSA. This is an exciting time of change in the world of media and public relations, and I hope to initiate conversations that will assist and support public relations professionals in the industry. In my personal time, love the outdoors, boating, fishing, camping and being mom to my three dogs. Twitter: @tressalynne; LinkedIn: TressaLynne; Facebook: BurrellesLuce
Posts by Tressa Robbins:
- Consumers gather information online
- Market WITH Millennials, not AT them
- Social media is embedded in the Millennials’ life – case in point, video on YouTube where kids make a mess with flour –mom’s first instinct was to grab video and share
- Most conversations were about the “3 P’s”—pee, poop, puke
- Content is NOT king with Millennials—context is
- See mess: “Talk to dirty to me”
- Hear mess: Share all things messy via “bleachable moments”
- Speak mess: Create a language of mess, based on the “ick-speriences” of the newly responsibles
- First things first, clean-up and refine your online presence—including your social media accounts. Google yourself (be sure to hide personal results by clicking the globe in the upper right)–and don’t forget Bing and Yahoo!. If the first page results do not represent you and who you are, immediately begin digital damage control. (This is even more important if you have a common name or have a dubious doppelgänger out there.) There are free tools to help you keep an eye on your online reputation –personally, I use BrandYourself.
- Read, write, repeat. Reading exercises your brain. Writing is a skill that requires practice. But it’s more than that. Reading improves your vocabulary, makes you a better conversationalist, gives you a broader understanding of language and improves your storytelling skills (a key component of public relations). Sure, industry-related content is important but also read general news and (try to) read for fun as well.
- Volunteer. Get involved with an on-campus pre-professional organization (like PRSSA, AMA or AAF). That doesn’t mean show-up once or twice a month and sit through a guest speaker or meeting. Run for office and/or lead a committee (demonstrates leadership). Head-up a fundraising event, volunteer to be part of a team, work in the student-run PR firm (if there is one). If you have free time, volunteer at a local non-profit organization and offer to help with public relations, marketing, social media, blog content creation, special events. Do something that’s going to give you experience and help sharpen your skills—it all counts!
- Network—virtually and IRL. Seek out and follow industry leaders on Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and blogs so you can learn from the pros; but don’t just lurk—participate! Attend industry events (not just those for students but where there will be pros as well). Research agencies, organizations, companies that you would like to intern with or work for. Develop and practice your elevator speech; you should have a 30-second spiel that is memorable and opens a window to your personality, your passions and your mindset. Not a laundry list of skills, rather what you can offer to a potential employer. Use your smartphone to record yourself so you can play it back and make improvements. Then, reach out to your targets and request an informational interview. If face-to-face isn’t an option, Skype or Google+ Hangouts are good alternatives. Ask what (coursework, degrees, activities, skill sets) they are looking for when hiring. Ask, given identical academic backgrounds, what makes some candidates standout above the rest. Doing this NOW allows you time to make a quick change to a more pertinent elective, audit a course or self-teach additional skills.
- Create an online portfolio if you haven’t already. Gather writing samples from internships, volunteer gigs, blog posts, class assignments. Be sure to include any public relations or marketing plans you’ve created, press releases, anything written in AP Style, newspaper/media clippings, presentations, creative design samples, reference letters, special certifications, etc. (NOTE: If you are including any work that was done as part of a group, be sure to notate this and identify which part you actually did.) PR professionals must view themselves as “brands”—it’s a very competitive industry. Your online portfolio, business cards, blog, resume, etc. should all present one cohesive message.
- Does anxiety, workaholism and/or a sense of over-responsibility get in the way of getting what you want out of your life?
- Do you stay busy to appease your restlessness?
- Are you obsessive compulsive about work and other areas of your life?
- Do you do more than your fair share at home, at work, in volunteer activities?
- Make sure the customer’s voice is present. Be sure your messages, campaigns and programs support what the marketing team is saying/doing. Push your organization’s tolerance.
- This works because consumers are naturally “me” focused. Consistency across all touch points improves the likelihood of being heard.
- Leverage your history and shared cultural experiences (like the Dove soap commercials, for example). Lead with your values. Step aside and let fans tell the stories that matter to them.
- This works because it makes people feel “warm and fuzzy” so they are more likely to listen. People like to share their own stories—you simply provide the platform.
- Show them everything.
- People need to see to believe.
- Move away from corporate spokespeople and toward real people. Credibility doesn’t always equal credentials.
- Letting someone they trust share the story improves believability.
- First, broaden your idea of who should get access. Offer face time with CEO, or take them behind the scenes, or better yet—put them to work. Let them experience it–see it, touch it, feel it. Tyler gave the example here of taking a blogger to the farm where McDonald’s ingredients are grown and having them crack an egg or pick a piece of lettuce.
- Seeing is believing; doing is even better. That’s why this works.
- Make it possible for customers to experience you in a new milieu. Surprise them by doing something unexpected of your brand. For example, last year, McDonald’s held a Top Chef event in New York where they gave top chefs the ingredients used in McDonald’s restaurants and had them create a menu. They invited 100 people to sample the results. People were amazed that these gourmet dishes came from the same ingredients as are found under their local ”golden arches.”
- You can probably see from the example why this works. If you can truly set aside existing perceptions, then you have better odds at engaging in a new dialogue.
The most successful public relations campaigns are cohesive, tackling traditional PR and digital and social marketing and advertising to reach targeted audience. At a session at this year’s PRSA International Conference, three young pros spoke about being the hybrid PR professional and spreading campaigns across multiple platforms.
Lauren Gray, Jonathan “JR” Rochester and Jess Noonan—all former national PRSSA officers, now members of the New Professionals PRSA section, discussed how today’s PR pro must be a hybrid and understand not only the the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, but when it’s appropriate to use which one. They talked about how the new PR pro’s skills must go beyond traditional PR and media relations to address the demand for integrated campaigns.
NOTE: See my last post on the Clorox campaign as a great example of an integrated campaign.
PR, by definition, has changed in the past 30 years, as have the skills required to do the job. This “dream team” of young professionals talked about flexibility and handling change (seemingly effortlessly) as being critical characteristics of the new PR professional. They quoted Deirdre Breakenridge, an experienced public relations professional and author of several books on the intersection of technology and public relations, who said, “Public Relations is becoming more integrated with marketing and advertising. It’s important to embrace new technology to do justice to the brand. All areas should be working together.”
To further prove the point, they showed a recent job description—pointing out that it’s not just writing press releases and pitching stories to the media, but the qualified job candidate will also need to have a basic understanding of business strategy, be able to perform thorough research and create proposals, have strong writing skills for content creation, ethical common sense, social media acumen, as well as being able to track key metrics and provide measurement tie-backs to KPIs.
It seemed to me that the one constant is that things are constantly changing in this industry, and we are its perpetual students.
One of the best sessions I attended at the PRSA 2014 International Conference was on how a 100+ year-old company launched a multi-media campaign to become relevant to Millennials. Rita Gorenberg, manager of public relations and social media at The Clorox Company and Leslie Schrader, partner and director of DC Brand Marketing Practice, consumer health and wellness, at Ketchum, explained the who, what, how, and how much (outcomes/measurement) of this campaign.
The target audience is what they called “newly responsible” consumers. Research showed that young parents aren’t afraid to talk about life’s messy moments. Conversations and videos were already happening online about these messes but there was no conversation about where it goes next – the cleanup phase.
The key insights that were garnered from the research were:
The strategy was “See mess, hear mess, speak mess.”
They created the “Ick-tionary, your wiki for the icky.” To do this, they sought out “ick-sperts” (influencers) mommy bloggers, daddy bloggers, comedians, in order to use popular language (not Clorox’s terms) that resonates—such as poo-nami. Language had to be genuine and authentic or it wouldn’t work.
There were other demographics, such as millennials without kids, which were targeted. “Bleachable moments” was launched from Las Vegas with people on the street video interviews filling-in the blanks “I _____ my ______ in Vegas”. They used paid media such as digital billboards and taxi cab toppers, but the on-the-ground activation of these interviews pulled in earned media as it gave the media something to talk about.
This campaign had multiple components across multi-media platforms—from traditional PR and advertising to digital and web-based application, so Ketchum worked with other agencies to ensure Clorox was getting the best of the best in each area.
So, did it work? Yes, both internally and externally—by posting Ick-tionary terms in office bathrooms, it re-empowered employees, giving them something new to talk about. It drove social interaction – it was #1 nationwide trending on Twitter (which would’ve been a $200,000 buy). Conversation around Clorox in conjunction with “messes” and “cleanup” rose 18 percent. Online connections between Clorox and general messes increased 142 percent. Conversations around all Clorox brands increased across the board. “Bleachable moments” conversation volume increased 200 percent. Activities resulted in nearly a million page views, 12 million Twitter impressions, and 63 million media impressions. Finally, where it really counts, the brand perception shifted—a 10 percent increase in brand favorability and an 8 percent increase in purchase interest (5 percent was the goal). I’d call that a “clean” success!
Mentoring, advising and otherwise helping PR students is a passion of mine. You may know that I’ve previously written about what public relations students should do during their summer break, what PR students can do to build their personal brand, and more. If you are an underclassman, you have the advantage of time; however, if you are entering your senior year, there is no time but the present.
Here is a mash-up of those tips (and some new ones) to help put you on the right path to becoming a new public relations professional.
Human Resources professionals will likely tell you they look at LinkedIn profiles but not a candidate’s Facebook page or other social media, as they are prohibited by law to access any information that could be used in a discriminatory way. However, they will also admit that many hiring managers do vet job candidates through online/social sleuthing. Proof in point: According to the 2013 Jobvite study, 94 percent of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their recruitment efforts.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~Stephen King
What else should students be doing to prepare for their PR career? If you are a student or recent graduate, what have you done (or are doing) that’s helped to progress your career?
Many of us in the communications fields refer to ourselves as being “Type A” or having “Type A” personalities. The term has become a catchphrase for those of us who tend to be high-energy, driven, ambitious, goal-oriented, competitive perfectionists with a sense of urgency in nearly everything we do.
HISTORY: The term “Type A” originated in the 1950s when Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman observed that those most likely to suffer a cardiac event also tended to have more driven, impatient, high-stress personalities, and the term propagated after their 1974 best-selling book, Type A Behavior And Your Heart, was published.
At the recent PRSA Midwest District Conference, one of the sessions I attended was with Lynn Ingrid Nelson, principal at Lin PR, and author of the book Getting Your Life into Balance. She talked about PR pros often running around with their “hair on fire” due to the urgent nature of our work, and that learning ways to handle this constant state of urgency improves our well-being and our effectiveness. In public relations specifically, our stressors tend to be clients, bosses, continual deadlines, round-the-clock demands, cranky journalists, and constant multitasking. This session was interesting to me as I have been the epitome of “work hard, play hard” most of my adult life, but in recent years found it not working quite so well for me anymore.
Not sure if you need to bring your life into balance? Nelson suggests you begin with asking yourself these questions:
Still not sure? Check out this Huffington Post article, 16 Signs You’re A Little (Or A Lot) Type A.
If you answered yes to many but aren’t sure just WHY you should focus on life balance, Nelson suggests you’ll have more compassion and better understanding of others, more energy for activities (less drudgery), more creativity/play, more intimacy, possibly better health, and more overall satisfaction.
Nelson suggests creating a sort of journal she called an “intentional time diet” where you record how you spend your time now (anyone who’s worked in a PR agency should be familiar with this drill), and then distinguish between discretionary and required time.
She spoke about clarifying your intentions by asking yourself things like: what are your three most important goals, what do you want to do less/more of, and are you willing to make the changes that would be required to meet those goals. Estimate much time are you willing to spend on what. Then, determine what you can do now to shift toward better balance. “Find your own shade of gray,” Nelson challenged.
Through her own struggle, she shared many things she’s learned. A few of the ones that really resonated with me were:
1. Going out of your way for everyone does not lead to good balance.
2. There is little upside to being the most responsible person in the group.
3. “Muscling” through tough situations is less of an option as we age. Intentional is a much better solution.
While I already had some things set in motion to simplify my life and make me more productive and less stressed, this session validated that I’m moving in the right direction.
What are you doing to find your shade of gray?
We all know that storytelling is a key component of public relations. We tell stories to enhance our brand, our client and/or our mission. You know your story is being heard, but is your audience really listening?
McDonald’s USA public relations manager Christina Tyler, APR, spoke last week at the PRSA Midwest District Conference on how to be disruptive to get your points across. She began by showing McDonald’s advertising clips, spanning four decades (that’s 40 years for those who are math-challenged), all saying their burgers are 100% pure beef. This message was loud and clear in the ads; yet, in nearly every focus group, the main question people had was “What’s in the beef?”
Tyler talked about consumers seeing Super Size Me and making (incorrect) assumptions about their ingredients. Or, perhaps they saw a Facebook post that was a hoax, myth or urban legend, but gets passed along by the uninformed as truth. She discussed how stimuli gets interpreted by our beliefs to form “facts” that may not be facts at all. Perception IS reality.
Time to get disruptive! It doesn’t have to be “in your face” or rude, and you shouldn’t feel obliged to engage trolls. What you do need to do is to interrupt the flow of information. Tyler laid out six disruptive tactics McDonald’s has used and why they work:
1. Start on the inside of the organization
2. Play to the heart
4. Change the messenger
5. Provide unexpected access
6. Take yourself out of context
So, ask yourself, is what’s standing in the way of me disrupting the status quo and getting my message across the adherence to doing things the way it has always been done just because that’s the way it’s always been done? If the answer is yes, then get disruptive!