What is good writing?

18 02 2009

I constantly question whether or not I am a good writer. Feedback about my writing varies from “great!” to “needs work”. I know that I tend to ramble from time to time and that writing concisely has always been a problem of mine. It is an problem that I have been working to correct for a while now. I have chosen elective classes this year for very specific reasons: an English Composition class to improve my grammar, a Corporate Communications class to improve my writing within an organization (I was asked to improve my internal communications in my last job), and  two political science classes (the American Presidency and Congress) that require concise and straight-forward writing. But in my efforts to improve my writing, I have discovered that I am more confused than ever. Why am I receiving such dichotomous reviews from professors?  

“Well once college is over I am not going to need to worry about this anyway,” I said to a friend. “Right,” she said.

Aftertward, I headed over to the library to do work, which inevitably led to aimless thoughts during my sporadic breaks on twitter and youtube. I decided then that I was wrong before when I said that the differing reviews didn’t matter. As a public relations professional, I will need to be able to write for a variety of audiences. I can’t say then that my unfavorable writing one time doesn’t matter, because it will always matter. My grade will not be a factor; I will be responsible for my client’s image.

On this thought, I read through my favorite “copyblogger” articles, one of which is titled “Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well” by Brian Clark, published on 10/30/06. Here are Hemmingway’s 5 tips:

  1. Use short sentences
  2. Use short first paragraphs
  3. Use vigorous english
  4. Be positive, not negative
  5. There is no 5, but Clark found a great quote to fill the space — “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

If you are ever feeling as discourged as I felt today, take a look at the blog “Copyblogger“. And if you are not feeling discouraged, take a look at it anyway. Copyblogger is a great writing reference for journalism/pr students.

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Think mulitmedia and Social Media

15 02 2009

If you are new to being fully engaged in social media (like me) then I would recommend that you read a new free ebook, Brink, by the Principal of SHIFT Communications and the author of the blog PR Squared, Todd Defren. Defren explains the importance of using of Social Media in Public Relations campaigns in order to engage with customers. Starting on the first page, Defren clearly defines the difference between old and new PR, which are separated by their use of social media. Old PR: “Only unhappy customers are particularly vocal.” New PR: “But in an online world, a company can been seen and noticed as being responsive, even by non-customers.”

I particularly enjoyed the case study about the “Neat Company”, which makes a portable scanner. The initial target audience was businesspeople who are always on the go and looking for the next best convenience. However, because of SHIFT’s close relationship with a techie blogger who moved to Martha Stuart Omnimedia in the middle of their pitch, the Neat Company was featured in Martha Stuart. While reading this case study I was probably just as surprised as the rest of the SHIFT employees to hear that Martha Stuart was interested in the portable scanner. This case study is the the perfect example of the importance of relationship building in public relations through social media. Communication with a blogger resulted in a feature in Martha Stuart, #1  on Amazon, and a whole new audience for the scanner that SHIFT probably would have never known about, “mommybloggers”.

Another very important part of using social media as a tool in public relations campaigns is to always be engaged in the conversation. I love his letter to a CEO who is interested in blogging because I also think that aspects of it work as a letter to any person who is interested in blogging for the first time. If you are interested in blogging, Defren suggests that you begin by not blogging. “Instead, spend that time following OTHER blogs in your industry. Read them. Comment judiciously. Leave your “agenda” on the coat-rack. Just get to know a few folks. Introduce yourself.”

As students, it’s probably okay to jump into it and learn as we go. But, the important thing is that you learn as you go. I have only had my blog for a little over a month now, and as you may have noticed, I have started slowly by only writing a handful of entries in that time. The reason for my slow start is because I am a sponge right now, taking in information and the blogging culture from the 27 blogs that I read on a daily basis, the books and ebooks that I am reading, and the twitter conversations with which I am engaged.

This is difficult for me to say since I have worked very hard during my college career in the past three-and-a-half years, but I have learned more about public relations through social media in the past 42 days than I have learned in my entire college career. At Cal Poly I only have two public relations teachers, but on the Internet I have an infinite number of teachers that range from Public Relations professionals to CEO’s and from students to college professors. I urge you to take advantage of all the resources that are available to you. As Defren says many times in Brink ENGAGE in the conversation. It will benefit you now as you are a student and it will benefit you later when you become a public relations professional.





President Obama’s Social Media Campaign Research Paper

11 02 2009

I am going to write an anylitical paper for my english class about President Obama’s use of social media tools in his presidential campaign. Here is the proposal for my paper that I gave to my professor:

“President Obama was able to successfully reach out to millions of Internet savvy users and join our blogosphere discussions. He understood the blogger language and culture and tactfully emerged his campaign into our society. Few politicians have attempted to use social media to benefit their campaigns, and those who have used it have been unsuccessful. Why has social media not worked for politicians in the past? The answer is obvious to us bloggers and social media fanatics who spend countless hours-a-day in the blogosphere, they didn’t reach out to us on our level. Politicians joined our society expecting that we would stop our conversations and join theirs – when we bloggers all know it should be the other way around. The problem is however, that politicians do not understand that the social media norms are completely different than industrial media norms. Obama understood the difference; he engaged himself in our conversations; he treated us as equals.

President Obama’s social media campaign was very detailed and involved many layers: text messages, emails, blogs, twitter, youtube (viral videos), and an online support community (my.brackobama.com), just to name a few. I would like to research and analyze each of the social media tools that Obama’s campaign used. Although I know a lot about this topic because I was emerged in his social media campaign, I have not yet taken the time to step back and view the campaign after the election.

As a Journalism major concentrating in Public Relations and an avid social networker, this topic is very relevant and interesting to me. Upon my graduation in June, I plan to begin a career in Technology or Digital Public Relations at a Public Relations Agency. My hope and expectation for this report is to gain a better understanding of how social media is used in political campaigns and relate that understanding to technology companies. The essence of a political campaign is no different than a public relations plan for a company. Both have a common goal, which is to build a relationship with their constituents or consumers. “

Now, can you help me out a little bit with my research? I have a few sources so far, but can you please leave a comment or send an email to me if you know of any good case studies or articles that I could use to assist my researc? Thank you so much!

Here is a good case study that I found by Paul van Veenendaal, SMM Wizard & Author of viralblog.com 


 






I want to do PR because I’m a “people person”

10 02 2009

In my experience, the number one answer that all pr professionals, HR managers, and recruiters hate to hear when they ask why you want to do PR is “I’m a people person”. After three years of being aware of this hated answer, I have to say that I agree. A past colleague of mine had a funny response to that answer, “You’ll find that you won’t like people as much as you thought when you have been doing PR for a while.” 

First of all, what do you mean when you say that you are a “people person”? Think about it before you say it. I Googled “people person” and the first website on the list is a website that says that a people person is “… a person that other people like, and want to be around.” – Eruptingmind.com. No offense to the website, but if that is what makes a people person, then I hope that everyone strives to be one and not just Public Relations professionals. But no definition is better in my opinion than famed Urban Dictionary: 

People Person: A term used to describe someone who has no discernible skills. Often used by the person in situations such as a job interview.

Example: I am a people person, and would make a good team leader. 
peopleperson
Second, why do you think being a people person qualifies you to be a Public Relations professional? If you mean to say that you are a good communicator or that you are intuitive, then just say that. Public Relations requires many skill sets that, yes, includes excellent written and verbal communication skills. But have you ever seen a job posting for PR that requires a “people person”? You may be very personable, but are you hard-working? determined? a team player? motivated? I do not want to discredit the importance of building relationships however. But if you do really think you are a people person, then you do not need to say it. Whoever you are talking with will either determine that you are a people person or that you are not a people person. Saying that you are one will only cause that person to scrutinize whether or not your answer is true; it may even turn some people off from you.
pplprsn2
Here are some funny blog post on a “people person”:

 

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Twitter is actually useful!

7 02 2009

#pradvice @collegejourn #entrypr @prsajobcenter — Do those look familiar to you? They should look familiar if you are a PR college student. They are discussions and people on “Twitter”. If you don’t have a Twitter account becuase you don’t understand the importance of it, I completely understand; I have been there.

I opened an account about a year ago because people in the PRSSA told me I should be on it,  but I never understod why it was so great. “Who in the world cares that just I ate a banana?” I thought. Recently however, Twitter has proven to ba a valuable resource for me. In the past few weeks, I have received more advice and information about Public Relations than I could have ever imagined. People constantly post links to websites with professional development tips and with articles that explain and predict media trends (very useful for us pr college students to stay informed). 

Twitter is also very useful directly with the reply (@), discussion (#), and direct message (DM) functions. A few days ago I discovered that our speaker for the PRSSA meeting next week fell through. I posted an update on Twitter asking anyone for advice about fast meeting topics with the #pradvice tag. Within an hour I received multiple responses from people who both gave me meeting topic ideas and who even offered to be our speaker! I was amazed and delighted! I never realized how helpful Twitter could be if it is used in the right way.

Go to www.search.twitter.com and join some of the discussions:

  • #pradvice
  • #prpro
  • #entrypr
  • #printern
  • #collegejourn
  • #journchat

Also, follow people who tweet about PR type things. Here are a few of my favorite:

I also follow some news/blogs that are great for PR, tech, and media:





Where do you fit in the PR world?

2 02 2009
   

There are so many directions that you can go when you decide to become a public relations professional. I have always known that I want to work for a Public Relations firm when I graduate, but the avenues that you can enter in to the field are endless. There are pros and cons for each avenue. My advice is that you discover for yourself the avenue in which the pros outweigh the cons, and then you will know what direction is best for you.

My university department does not have career advising; Students are left to fend for themselves and research opportunities on their own. As a result, when I have mentioned leading Public Relations agencies to members in our chapter of the PRSSA, to my surprise, many have given me blank stares. The University or Journalism department cannot be completely to blame for this lack of knowledge however. Students should research the career that they intend to enter and should not rely on a university to hold their hand (although it would be nice to have a little guidance).

I have put together a list of public relations careers, including examples for and information about each (Keep in mind that I am of course a little biased. Also note that this is a very brief overview for people just needing the basics):

AGENCY

Information

  • Strong training programs
  • Big clients with constant PR needs
  • Room to move within the company (e.g.: If you become interested in a new PR practice, you don’t need to move companies. Rather, you can move within the company when there is availability in the practice of your interest.)
  • Multiple mentors of all levels
  • Endless office resources (e.g.: accounting, IT, human resources, office assistants, and receptionists)
  • Typically highest paid Public Relations position for entry level  
  • Entry level positions include a great deal of administrative work at first that will help you to really learn about your client
  • Gain valuable experience that will help you to either work your way up within the company or move to another company that may require agency experience

Examples of Agencies

BOUTIQUE 

Information

  • Immediate “hands-on” experience
  • A great diversity of work – You may be working on Public Relations projects, marketing, advertising, etc.
  • Boutiques are specialized in one practice area (e.g.: technology, corporate, brand marketing, social media, etc.)

Examples of firms

CORPORATE/IN-HOUSE

Information

  • It is more common for people to enter this career after they have already worked for a PR firm
  • You may be a communications representative/spokesperson for the company
  • You may contact the media from time to time, but the majority of your work will be to respond to the media – most companies have PR agencies that do their media relations – you will work with those agencies

Examples

  • Any corporation

NON-PROFIT

Information

  • PR will most likely be just one of your many job descriptions
  • You will take on the “learn by doing” mindset since there are not enough people to spend their valuable time training you
  • You will be working for the greater good
  • Pay of course will be the lowest offered in a PR job

Examples

  • Any non-profit or government agency

 

 

 





“Google Yourself”

15 01 2009
Have you ever tried to “Google yourself” to see what comes up? First of all, how far down do you have to look to find yourself? I’m second on the list as of now, and my goal is to be first. What appears for you? Is is your facebook or myspace? How appropriate are your profiles? Before you add anything to your public profile, you need to be comfortable with sharing it with a recruiter, boss, professor, family member, or anyone else who uses the Internet. You shouldn’t be afraid of adding any of the previously listed people to your social networking profiles because the use of it is just that, networking. If you do not already know, your public profiles will be viewed when you are applying for a job, especially in Public Relations. As a student studying to become a public relations practitioner, we need to always keep our image in mind. A company will only be comfortable with putting their image in your hands when they know that you have a good image as well. 

I know I am not the most savvy when it comes to new media. People are constantly telling me about which social networking websites and new media websites I need to join, but I honestly cannot keep up with everything. I have condensed what I use to only a few websites, but I am trying to build a larger Internet presence, which is a big reason why I started this blog. In my opinion, there is only one must have profile for a student, Linkedin. Here are a few sites that I am a member of and I enjoy using:

Linkedin – http://linkedin.com/in/epoeschl
This is your professional profile that is basically an online resume. You can add information about your education, work experience, personal websites, and projects your are currently worked on or have complete. A really great resource on linkedin is the recommendations section. Here, people from past or current jobs or internships can write short recommendations. This is very helpful for when recruiters look at your profile. Make sure to always keep you profile and connections updated.

Facebook –
Most of you probably already have a facebook, but how many are work appropriate? That doesn’t mean that you need to take out all of your personality. Your Facebook profile should show your personality. You already have a Linkedin as your professional networking profile, so feel free to have fun with Facebook. As a caveat, you may want to forget about including those incriminating pictures from Friday night in which paraphernalia were used. It always surprises me when I see people who advertise their smoking habits, beer bong chugs, and keg stand contests. Private or not, people have ways to view your entire profile. You should be comfortable with anyone viewing what you put on the internet.

Twitter – http://twitter.com/epoeschl
This is a tool that I am still learning and recently using. If you have a Facebook then you know about the status updates. Twitter is a website that is devoted to just status updates. It sounds a little pointless, and that is what I thought for a long time, but twitter is great for well, keeping updated. It sounds a little stocker-like, but the point is to follow what people are “tweeting” about. You can follow friends, journalists, bloggers, newspapers, celebrities, blogs, companies, etc. I’ll keep working with it and let you know what I learn.

Blogger-
I recently started this blog so that I have my own personal blog, but I have been co-managing the Cal Poly PRSSA blog for about a year now under the username epoeschl. Having a blog is not something for everyone, but it is a good way to practice your writing, share your knowledge, and put yourself out there. Try to link your blog to other websites to that it becomes visible. I’m working on that right now. 

These are just a few websites that I use, but people have also suggested that I be a member of a photo sharing website like photobucket or flickr. I don’t have a camera or take pictures, so I don’t really see the point. Another extremely popular website is of course youtube. If you enjoy vlogging (or video blogging), it may be a good idea to create a profile on youtube so that you can upload your videos and create a following there. It really depends on your interests. Have fun with whatever you do on the Internet and let your personality shine, but also make sure that you are comfortable sharing whatever you do on the Internet.

If you have any suggestions of websites that I didn’t mention please leave a comment and share!