Posts Tagged ‘PRSSA’

Adulting as A New Professional

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

By: Whitney Welker*

As a recent college graduate, it would be a lie if I said that working in the ‘real’ world turned out to be everything I thought it would be. You know what I’m talking about. The whole ‘oh now my life is magically all together’ scenario. You land the perfect job and all of a sudden you have all this free time for friends, perhaps a hobby, oh and of course you meet your soul mate almost immediately {retch}. At least that’s what we are led to believe;MayaAngelouStillLearning that all of our problems will be solved by our first job. WRONG.

One of the first things I learned out of college was that everything I’d need to know about doing my job to the best of my ability wasn’t necessarily going to be things I learned in the classroom.  All of those ‘real life’ scenarios, case studies and pitches that we worked on so diligently meant very little now. Yes, while in college I learned intangible skills to prepare me for landing a job, and I most definitely learned more about the industry, but there was so much more to learn.

As a result, I started looking to my coworkers for examples and advice. To give a little background, with my job I am a marketing department, of one, for the region I support, so it’s pretty safe to say that learning by brainstorming and picking the brains of my coworkers was going to be my best option. Learning from your coworkers can actually be one of the best things as well. They have been in the industry longer than you, so use that experience to help yourself succeed.

Another thing that I learned was not to try and tackle the world in a day. This will never work. I find myself making a To Do list for the day with about 25 things on it. Let’s be honest, all of those items are not going to get done today. So I learned to make a weekly To Do list, and a daily To Do list. This way I can take the time to focus on the tasks that I need to get done that day instead of worrying about a project that I have more time to work on. Sounds like college multitasking again, right?

Working with others is probably the biggest obstacle for me in the ‘real’ world. You don’t realize this as much in college because although you have group projects to work on, those only last, at most, a semester. When you are in the workplace, this ‘group project’ can last years. With so many moving parts in a company I find myself speaking with multiple departments on a daily basis. This means MANY ‘group projects’. It was vital for me to begin learning more about my co-workers’ personalities so that we could succeed as a whole. This means learning when is the right time of day to contact someone. Do they like to have their coffee before talking business? Do they prefer an email over face-to-face or phone conversations? All of these traits, and more, need to be identified so that you can make the most of your time and theirs.

In all, my first job has been great. I love my company, coworkers and job duties. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I have been given, and still look to expand my knowledge about the industry on a daily basis. I believe that when you stop learning, you stop producing. So stay inquisitive and know that although the world after college is tough, you can succeed if you try your hardest every day.

Do you have tips for new communications professionals embarking on their first “adult job” that you’d like to add? We’d love to hear from you!


*Whitney Welker is a Marketing Analyst for a utility company. She enjoys the diversity of her role as she not only creates marketing pieces, but also handles customer communication and website content. In her free time Whitney likes to spend time at her family farm and traveling with her friends.

Stop “raising awareness.” Just…please, stop.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

By Debra Bethard-Caplick, MBA, APR


As a university PR instructor, PRSSA Bateman competition and PRSA Silver Anvil I’m going to let you in on a little secret: “raising awareness” doesn’t do anything for your boss. It’s become a lazy way to write objectives that doesn’t help you demonstrate the success that you know you’ve achieved. It’s what you do with that awareness that matters to your organization. You need to move beyond awareness and into real action – and it’s that difficult. All it takes is a slightly different way of looking at what you’re doing.

Think for a moment about how you craft key messages for your target audiences when you’re preparing a PR campaign. Would you use words and terms they don’t understand? Of course not. So why would you do that when communicating with CEOs and other non-communication executives? You need to treat your colleagues like a target audience, because they are one, and can possible have the biggest impact on whether your campaign will succeed or not. You understand the implications of increased awareness, reach, and impressions, but what about your CEO or CFO? Probably not, so it’s up to you to both educate them, and to use terms they understand, namely, dollars and cents.

What are your organization’s business goals? Sales objectives? New accounts? These are what you should be incorporating into your communication goals, because they are results that non-PR managers understand. They have no clue how awareness impacts on what they’re trying to achieve. In the case of nonprofit organizations, this is measured in terms of overall donations made, new donors, additional donations from existing donors, etc. CEOs of for-profit organizations. You can slice and dice it any way you like, but money is the crucial element for all organizations.

If you remember, a couple of years ago the internet and news media were filled with the Ice Bucket Challenge. Seemingly everyone was doing their best to turn themselves into human Popsicles® and to convince others to do the same. It was fun to watch, it was interesting, and it went viral. Within just a few weeks, it was hard to find someone who hadn’t seen at least one video of someone dousing (or being doused) with ice water, especially as celebrities started joining in and ever more elaborate ways to drop the ice and water were dreamed up. Increased awareness? Absolutely. But awareness without action is an empty objective. The whole world can become aware of your mission, as happened with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but if they didn’t convince people to take action beyond the act of dumping ice water on their heads, they’re no better off than they were before.

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret: we’re human. I know… big surprise. We’re attracted to the shiny things in PR. Who wants to slog through boring plans, when there’s all kinds of bright, shiny tactics just tantalizingly hovering out there, waiting for us? It’s much more fun to film human Popsicles® than it is to develop donation materials. But those donations are what the people at the ALS Association need in order to fund their mission of finding the cause of and a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and to support ALS patients and their families. Building those donation amounts into your objectives gives you something to work toward and measure how effective your tactics are.

By the simple act of building a forfeiture option into the challenge, allowing those challenged by friends to make a donation to the participating ALS organizations instead of being doused, increased awareness was converted into action, as donations poured in. And dollars and cents are easy to count – especially for CEOs. The New York Times reported on July 27th that the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115 million for the ALS Association, with $77 million going to research and another $23 million to patient and community services. Even better, the ALS Association just announced that the money raised had funded the discovery of a gene tied to ALS. Those are numbers to make any CEO – and Silver Anvil judge – ecstatic.

Campaign Mistakes PR Practitioners Should Learn From

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

by Emma Hawes


It’s that time of year when you hesitate posting a political gaffe of a candidate in fear that your Facebook page will become a battle ground by posting the article. The truth is election brings out the worst in both parties. Let’s stop fighting for a moment and think about how awesome, and scary, it is that the future of our country is determined by your vote. So not only do your part and vote this election, but do your research over candidates from non-biased sites. It is inevitable that all candidates make mistakes regardless of the party.


Cue the music-

If there’s one mistake we see each year, it’s a political candidate or campaign manager who does not ask an artist to use their music. It just backfires and makes the candidate look bad for not doing their research. Even though a musician might share the same political views they may not want to endorse the candidate. Songwriters need to be included too because Sam Moore changed the lyrics of the Sam and Dave hit “Soul Man” to “Dole man” for Bob Dole. However, the songwriter Isaac Hayes demanded a cease and desists where eventually the song wasn’t played. Enter Sam Moore in 2008, when he asked Barack Obama to quit using “Hold On I’m Coming.” His statement included how his vote was a private matter between him and the ballot box.  However, he did perform for Obama later at the 2013 Inaugural Ball.


Communication Breakdown

Whatever you say on the Internet is eternal because a screenshot of a deleted post lives forever. That happened to Bernie Sanders when a tweet was sent out that said, “Greed, fraud, dishonesty and arrogance. These are just some of the adjectives we use to describe Wall Street.” The tweet was deleted because the words were nouns not adjectives. It’s okay if you have to sing a Schoolhouse Rock song while writing to reintegrate basic grammar.


Cruz fired his communication director around two weeks after the Iowa Caucus. Lies were spread about Ben Carson suspending his campaign after Cruz won Iowa and Rubio’s religious beliefs. Just creating a lie about the opposing candidate is bad and if issues arise the first time the director should not even have a second chance.


When celebrating, don’t get crazy

Before John Kerry won the Democratic ticket in 2004 enter Howard Dean, the man who won the coveted Iowa Caucus. He stated his excitement how he was going to win states then a scream that doomed his political career. Not only does that moment live on YouTube, but Dave Chappelle made a skit, which parodied the scream.


Everyone is important

Where does one begin on Donald Trump’s comments about different races and women? His comments about reporter Megyn Kelly is just one of the many numerous comments.  That is not a smart way to pick your battles considering that according to NY Magazine single women are currently the strongest political force.


However, during a debate, Ted Cruz stated most Americans could not relate to Trump because he had New York Values. Well Cruz’s mistake was just as bad because it is like calling someone from a rural area in Wyoming a country idiot.


Also, as much as you might want to get a certain demographic don’t try to reach out too hard. Hillary Clinton faced flack for the Hispanic community when she posted an article that said “7 ways Hillary Clinton is just like your Abuela.” Soon after the post was made, #notmyabuela became a trending topic on Twitter. Instead, she should have made the post in different languages to reach out to different demographics instead of speaking Spanglish.

Public Speaking Tips: 10 Keys to an Engaging Speech

Monday, October 20th, 2014
Virgil Scudder Public Speaking Tips BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring Public Relations PR Software clipping service

Scudder during the session. Photo by Andrea Gils

by Andrea Gils*

We all get butterflies before performance. The key is to get the butterflies to fly in formation.” – Virgil Scudder, president, Virigil Scudder and Associates, LLC.

Virgil Scudder, public relations veteran and president of Virgil Scudder and Associates shared his 10 keys to succeed in public speaking during his session in the 2014 Public Relations Society of America International Conference, which took place Oct. 12-14 in Washington, D.C.

Glossophobia, or what most of us know as public speaking or stage fright, has been said to trump death as the biggest global fear. According to a 2001 Gallup poll, which asked more than 1,000 Americans what their biggest fear was, public speaking ranked second (40 percent) after fear of snakes (51 percent). Regardless of the ranking, why do people fear public speaking so much? Is it because of the fear of failing or looking ridiculous? Perhaps.

Some of us don’t have any issues talking with a small crowd but once the audience reaches the three or four figures, our legs start shaking. Whichever your audience size is, practice is by far the best way to overcome the fear to speak in public.

Scudder quoted Mark Twain who said there are two types of speakers in the world: the nervous one and the liar. “If you are not a little nervous when you get up to speak, I’m concerned because it usually means it’s going to be very flat,” Scudder said.

He said that content and delivery are equally important. “People will tell you ‘it’s not what you say but how you say it’ and that’s nonsense,” Scudder said. “It’s both. If you have nothing to say, saying it well doesn’t really help much.”

During his session, Scudder shared the big no-nos you want to avoid when delivering a speech and techniques to effectively trap your audience into your story and keep them engaged from beginning to end.

Common mistakes

Scudder and the professionals in the session said that some of the common mistakes speakers make include using jargon; speaking with the wrong tone, pitch and volume; making unconscious gestures; using visuals as crutches instead of as supplements; failing to inform and entertain your audience or worse, not switching to a plan B when you see your audience is no longer engaged.

With our busy lives and increased use of social media and multitasking, our attention span is reduced. Therefore, failing to keep your speech short can hurt your delivery and engagement with the audience.

“Every time you go over 20 minutes, you better have some help with something you are going to demonstrate or show – video, PowerPoint, et cetera,” Scudder said.

As Mark Twain said, “It is an awful death to be talked to death,” so remember this when you draft your speech.

Drafting the speech

Scudder said that when drafting the speech, one should start with an audience analysis and a strategy: what do you want your audience to say, feel or do? “If there’s nothing you can get out of it, don’t do it,” he said. If you can’t connect and share your passion with your audience, you’ll be talking to a wall.


Scudder’s tips on delivery:

Have a punchy line to open and close the speech

With a strong introduction you’ll hook your audience’s attention and with a strong close, they will have a powerful impression of your speech.


Use word pictures

Make your points memorable by thinking, speaking and presenting visually. Choose words that audience can picture in their minds as you speak.


Be energetic

By having ups and downs in pace, pitch and volume you will transfer that energy to the audience and keep listeners interested and awake.


Smile and keep eye contact

Smile when you start unless there is a good reason not to. For eye contact, “look at a tall person, a short one, a man, a woman, someone wearing a bright dress and someone wearing a dark suit and then move it around,” Scudder said.


Use pauses and questions to grab the audience’s attention and slow yourself down

A pause for emphasis or drama will help you keep your audience on the edge of their seats and help you control the speed at which you speak. “When the speaker asks a question, the audience becomes more attentive,” Scudder said.


Let your body speak

Don’t control your hands if that is part of your natural animation.


Use humor

“Humor should be humble and self-deprecating. If you make fun of yourself, no one gets offended,” Scudder said.


Tell a story

A story makes your speech more personable and if you change your tone and make the right pauses, the audience will pay attention to what you are about to say.


Avoid using crutches and clichés

Do not use terms including “you know,” “like,” “um.” Scudder said that when you use these often it becomes a problem and you lose credibility fast.


Organize information

The layout of your talking points, of which you should have no more than three, will play a key role in your ability to follow your speech and have a smooth delivery. This includes font size and using only short sentences and words.


How to nail the Q & A

If you know you will have a question and answer session, you should prepare, practice and repeat. Questions allow you to elaborate or clarify a point of interest and good answers are the key to a solid closure. Do not avoid questions and make sure you are well prepared.

Scudder emphasized,“You and your client should never get a significant negative question you are not prepared for.”

So before your next speech remember: grab a camera, record yourself, watch the video, make adjustments and repeat.

“Nothing is more persuasive than a live speaker addressing a live audience, and who then nails the Q and A,” Scudder said.

Which techniques do you employ to be an effective communicator and keep your audience awake, engaged and on their seats until the end?


Andrea Gils   is currently PRSA St. Louis Chapter’s Newsletter Editor and social media co-contributor and former PRSSA National Diversity and Ethics Subcommittee member and PRSSA Southeast Chapter Firm Director. She is a public relations and journalism senior at Southeast Missouri State University and you can find her on Twitter @andreagils.



Changing the World One PR Professional at a Time

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
Gini Dietrich PRSSA SIUE BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring Public Relations PR Software Press clipping

Dietrich snaps a selfie wtih PRSSA SIUE students

by Kiley Herndon*

As a future public relations professional, it is my imperative to kill the infamous “spin doctor” stereotype that has so infested the truth we all know of public relations. Friday, September 19, Gini Dietrich, author of the blog and book Spin Sucks, spoke at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), where I am president of our PRSSA chapter, about how to disassociate “spin” and PR.

Dietrich first talked about our favorite celebrity, Miley Cyrus, and the brilliant case study she presents with her transition from Disney’s Hannah Montana to the Miley we all know today. Hannah Montana “was murdered,” Miley Cyrus explained on Saturday Night Live, like we must murder negative stereotypes of PR.

Gini Dietrich Spin Sucks BurrellesLuce PRSSA SIUE Media Monitoring Public Relations PR softwareCyrus’s intentional transition from child star to sexualized pop icon was the exact kind of marathon PR that professionals try to emulate. As Dietrich explained, “we are not wizards, there’s no one behind the screen.” Although a client might want to be on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow, we know that, even if we get that front page, it is not the end of the story. As professionals, we must strive to finish their story and help our clients to become transparent and lasting. Like Miley, we have to know our audience, our mission, and the most effective way to accomplish our goals with lasting impressions.

Dietrich also spoke to our crowd of eager future professionals about ethics, fitting for the month of September with PRSA, since September is dedicated to discussing ethics in PRSA. We learned that using fake accounts to post positive comments about our organization is unethical. Further, she challenged us to decide if it is ethical to write op-eds for executives and not state that a firm produced all the content.

Dietrich suggests we may be moving to a time when executives are forced into a state of actual transparency. This would suggest that future practices will require op-eds and other PR-produced content to state whether or not a firm authored the piece. Though the concepts of “spin” and media manipulation seem to plague our every move as PR professionals, it must be our mission to defeat that tyrant of a stereotype and get the first and most accurate story. Dietrich quotes TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington who stated, “Getting it right is expensive, getting it first is cheap.” Such remarks are exactly what we must combat to prove the ethical standards we hold ourselves to.

As I walked away from Dietrich’s presentation, I felt heightened vigor for public relations and knew the passion I have for the field is what can rid “spin” from outside definitions of PR. Consciously working in an ethical manner is the first step to achieving this transition. I do believe Dietrich was correct; we can change the world. Haven’t we already begun?

Photos by Kiley Herndon


About the author:

My name is Kiley Herndon and I am a senior English major at SIUE. I am the SIUE PRSSA chapter President, Marketing Officer of Student Government, and social content intern at Robust Wine Bar. I love to travel, read, and, oddly enough, research. I cannot wait to graduate in May!