A small fish in a big pond: Entering the World of Work

 

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Google images

It seems as though we all devote the first 22 years of our lives in preparation to dive into our careers. We set our goals and expectations for ourselves as students and work relentlessly to achieve them, making them the focus.

At some point in my college career I actually processed the fact that in a few short years I would be working and pursuing the field that I have studied and worked towards for so long. Another key realization I had about this transition came with my visit to this year’s Career Carnival in October.

I consider myself a diligent student, but I don’t think it was until this fall that I recognized the bigger picture. School and good grades are not the end goal, but simply the beginning and the starting point on a journey into a very big world.

While the resources across the University of Central Arkansas are remarkable helpful in preparing students for a successful future, including career services, I was completely overwhelmed by this experience. This rush of so many emotions had nothing to do with the work of career services, but everything to do with my recognition of the vast amount of opportunities that surrounded me.

I recognized so many important qualities that potential employers look for. I like to pride myself on someone who not only values relationships, but quality ones. After having brief conversations with various companies at their booths, I recognized just how vital it is to make those brief encounters and first impressions meaningful.

A lot like walking in to a public relations scenario, you must be prepared with key messages and communicate them thoroughly and intentionally. While a PR professional will prepare these messages for countless scenarios, it is completely different to have to do it about yourself.

Because of my experience at this career fair, I realized how important it was to sharpen my networking skills and led me to a networking workshop held through another campus department.

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Google images

I am merely one face in a crowd of people. Pinpointing how to stand out and how to be remembered is a skill that will take a lifetime to perfect, but through the opportunities granted to me by this university I feel a little bit more prepared to dive right in and find my fit.

SeaWorld finds themselves in deep water

One of the major conversations PR professionals are having in relations to communication initiatives is the idea of being present at the conversation table when handling a crisis.

Responses to crisis are a main indicator of how the public will continue to view a certain organization.

If an organization owns up to its wrongdoings, then the public may lose trust, but are likely to see the organization as admirable. Denying accusations altogether tends to dig a company into a hole that no amount of positive publicity can get them out of.

One organization in particular that has faced some extremely negative feedback after recent events is SeaWorld. In 2010 an orca trainer was killed during a training session, which sparked major media coverage.

Following the death of Dawn Brancheau, countless reports and investigations were launched into SeaWorld’s training and safety protocol.

Dawn Brancheau with orca Shamu before fatal training accident, from ABC News
Dawn Brancheau with orca Shamu before fatal training accident, from ABC News

The major trigger for the SeaWorld publicity crisis was the release of the documentary ‘Blackfish’ which provides viewers with accounts from former trainers on their experiences with the organization accompanied by video footage of the whales used in the popularized shows.

'Blackfish' documentary media image found on Google Images
‘Blackfish’ documentary media image found on Google Images

The depiction of mistreatment of the animals along with negative testimonials from former employees and trainers who worked closely with those who experienced extreme harm due to a lack of safety guidelines sparked major controversy regarding the organization.

SeaWorld’s response was less than adequate. The choice to launch a social media campaign including “69 reasons why you should not believe ‘Blackfish’” pointed out a lack of integrity within the organization while relying on denial alone.

Detailed video evidence as well as negative claims from those who worked extremely close to the source requires pretty detailed feedback from SeaWorld, not simply a top ten list for why they should still be trusted.

Not only did they provide a weak counterargument to such serious claims, but after deciding to cancel their main attraction show they then decided to change their minds and revamp and reopen the show. The lack of stability does not help the case of SeaWorld.

Where is the counter evidence? Why should we believe SeaWorld? They surely gave us no concrete reason to believe so.

Addressing this case points out just how vital the basics of public relations are: establishing a simple framework for what to communicate and sticking through it with every message that is released.

Key messages have been emphasized to us time and time again. Whether it is through a news conference or in objectives for a campaign, the overarching goals for what is to be accomplished is meant to be the guiding word for all that are involved.

When an initial message is sent out in a crisis and then completely turned into something else, the organization looks untrustworthy and inconsistent. Trying to turn a crisis around and into the light requires dedication to the cause, and that is something SeaWorld has not shown.

The media often portrays public relations professionals as dishonest, manipulative, and ingenuine.

If there is anything I have learned through my time studying public relations it would be that I hope I am able to work and lead a career of integrity and respect.

Being faced with crisis, much like SeaWorld has been for the past five years, can turn an organization on their head and they are left facing a fork in the road: own up and correct your actions or hide and sweep it under the rug.

Formulating concrete and honest key messages and maintaining that message throughout a crisis or campaign is one of the most basic yet important pieces of information we have gathered throughout our courses.

SeaWorld was faced with a crisis. They were faced with a tough decision and because they chose to avoid the accusations and push forward as if there was nothing to address left them with even more to analyze and discuss.

Public relations is about strategy and choosing the wrong one could leave you up the creek without a paddle. If I were SeaWorld, I think I would recognize that it was time to acknowledge the past and right the wrongs. Then, and only then, with they be able to recover and move forward.

A Place to Always Call Home

Alumni festivities, student celebration and a Bear football win on the stripes made for yet another successful homecoming weekend at the University of Central Arkansas.

Past and present students along with families and local supporters come together annually to celebrate the university with an array of gatherings and events. The displays of school pride accompanied by the fellowship of the community and those who travel to be a part of it make for the perfect image of the UCA family.

Local media outlets across central Arkansas continually cover the weekend’s events and draw positive attention to the university, each demonstrating a different angle and focus.

The Echo is a UCA specific newspaper publication that is circulated weekly on campus to keep students engaged and up to date on campus events and information. Being that this publication is distributed exclusively on campus, the focus of each story tends to be set on reaching primarily current students.

In their coverage of Homecoming 2015 The Echo focused on a big moment for nearly all students, the announcement of the Homecoming Queen.

A heartfelt photo of the 2015 elected queen, Courtney Barrentine, and her father at the moment her name was announced along with kind words from Barrentine and other members of the court portrayed the university and a welcoming family with a place for everyone.

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Courtney Barrentine, UCA Homecoming Queen 2015, is announced   and crowned at Saturday’s game : The UCA Echo

UCA recently underwent some troubling publicity with an incident that occurred at the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority house in which the chapter was investigated for hazing. The university handled the situation accordingly and no punishment was given to the sorority and its members.

While this issue gained quite a bit of negative attention, having an Alpha Sigma Tau crowned as homecoming queen along with having a tremendous amount of support from the other members on court shows how unified this university is and how supported all of the women who were nominated and elected to represent the student body on court are.

501 Life Magazine executed a homecoming story from a very different vantage point. This publication reaches a much broader audience that focuses mainly on the adults in the central Arkansas area. While most all of the festivities the occur throughout the homecoming weekend are for attendees of all ages, 501 Life focused on one in particular that most adults could relate to.

Rick Springfield performed at UCA’s Reynolds Performance Hall as a part of the the university’s Public Appearances department’s contribution to the festivities. Being a Grammy winning artist whose success spanned throughout the ’80s, Springfield was the perfect draw to alumni coming in to visit.

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Rick Springfield UCA performance : 501 Life Magazine

UCA is a competitive university in the state of Arkansas, but could tend to be overlooked by the larger University of Arkansas. Having an artist of this caliber come to perform on campus is a perfect example of the growth and development that UCA has undergone over the past few years and continues to strive for.

Parents play a major role in deciding where their student will attend college and by seeing that UCA has events to offer such as Springfield’s performance is only a small display of the resources the university possesses to ensure their child’s collegiate success.

While KARK also covered the story of Springfield coming to campus, no other central Arkansas television news networks broadcasted homecoming topics. However, UCA’s in-house video marketing did a great job of formulating  promotional commercial for Homecoming 2015 as a video on the UCA Youtube account.

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Screenshot from UCA Homecoming 2015 commercial

Two details that were absolutely deserving of attention were the display of diversity throughout the video as well as the heart touching song that accompanied the footage. YouTube is one platform of media that is completely accessible to an audience of every age. Because they made the reel into a commercial, this was meant to promote the events of the weekend as well as show what UCA has to offer.

Throughout the video students from all across campus, from different departments and organizations, were shown enjoying what Homecoming Week had to offer. Not only were the students on display, but plenty of families, children, and alumni were shown enjoying themselves as well.

From a PR standpoint it would be disappointing to not have much televised media coverage of our homecoming events, but I would be proud to put out this commercial that truly embodies the family atmosphere and diverse community that is the University of Central Arkansas that would make any potential student want to be a part of it as well as any alumni proud to have been.

From a PR standpoint, I would attest that all three of the stories discussed present a positive image of UCA. Each of these three news stories regarding UCA Homecoming 2015 reach a different audience in a different way, but all maintain that the university is thriving and growing and is the place to be for all new students and any from the past who look forward to coming home every year.

You Gotta See It To Believe It

Countless images and clips flood the screens of our televisions and smartphones that it has become an art form to produce media that truly catches the eye of the public.

No Kid Hungry released a public service announcement to campaign for the public to “Take the Pledge” to be aware and aim to end hunger in the child population.

A few of the most evident strengths of the PSA were the humanization of the children who are affected by this issue on a daily basis as well as incorporating a well known celebrity, Jeff Bridges.

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photos taken from screenshots of No Hungry Kid PSA on YouTube

When addressing social issues such as children going hungry this must become relatable to groups of people who have maybe never struggled with such an issue. By humanizing the children in the video anyone who has any relationship with a child can sympathize with this cause.

Putting a familiar face and voice with a cause in desperate need of attention like this one is a brilliant strategy. Jeff Bridges is in a lot of movies focused on adults which draws in their attention to help alleviate this problem.

The one criticism I have about the No Hungry kid PSA is the suggestion to display how this problem is already being addressed and show how those helping hands have helped to better the situation already.

Walmart presented a video news release in 2012 regarding their ‘Great for You’ product labeling to allow shoppers and easy way to distinguish between healthy products on the shelves.

This news release was extremely informative, but I recognized more negative aspects than positive ones. One obvious negative was the fact that this news release was targeted towards making shopping easier for customers, but no shopper input was shown.

The majority of the b-roll footage blended together because there was not much variation between each shot and not much complexity to what was shown. Scanning aisles and briefly showing shoppers is not eye catching to a viewer. I would suggest interviewing one ‘expert’ individual and then getting some input from the shoppers it will actually affect as well as showing more detailed shots of the changes being made in the labeling.

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photos taken from screenshots of  Walmart video news release on YouTube

Being able to draw in the eyes of the public is a far easier task than making them listen without distraction. To  be able to convey information in an intriguing way reaching only one sense is not an easy task.

The National Organization of Rare Disorders released an audio news release to promote Rare Disease Day in a way that made me pay close attention.

The strength of this release lies in the way the facts were conveyed in a way that made me as a listener was relatable. The very first thing that was said was that 1 in 10 people have a rare disease and that it is more common than those who have common diseases such as diabetes.

To hear a statistic like that is alarming and makes me feel like each of us know someone who is or has been affected by some sort of rare disease. Being informative and also entertaining to a certain degree was key with this release.

They also shifted between speakers which made it easier to remain engaged rather than tune out to what was being said. The only suggestion I would have for this release would be more influx in the voices throughout the release. The information and facts were engaging and surprising, but the voices did not seem as alert.

There are so many platforms for PR professionals to reach their target audiences and being able to explore different examples of each is beneficial to anyone studying within this field. The opportunities and channels are endless and being knowledgable about what works is extremely valuable.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

The news that is released regarding a particular company are the bread and butter to creating the image they desire. In order to make this information easily accessible to their publics, many companies have created online “newsrooms” where all of their press and news releases are gathered.

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all company logos from Google Images

HP’s newsroom is made up entirely of announcements and assurances of their new and current products. Headlines such as “HP Eliminates Ink Anxiety…,” “HP Announces World’s Most Secure Printers” and “HP Dramatically Simplifies…” all point to the cutting edge this company has on making technology extremely accessible to their customers.

The HP Newsroom itself is on-point in terms of organization. Not only are press releases displayed, but HP has also given consumers access to news advisories, press kits, HP in the news, as well their Twitter activity.

The news releases themselves are extremely lengthy and wordy. A reader can’t help but get lost in the overwhelming jargon and amount of information.

Google’s newsroom lacks that fun and creative atmosphere that they typically create with their products, but their use of recurring news topics including “Through the Google lens” which examines that weeks search trends and the news they present that is relevant to hard-hitting topics such as relief for refugees show a strategic method of presenting news about Google.

They are communicating with their readers to come back and visit and continue to read about what Google has going on in an easy-to-read and relatable way.

The weakness I see in Google compared to HP is it’s lack of fully showing visitors to the newsroom that these stories are about the good things Google is doing. The headlines don’t draw you in to learning more about Google like the HP headlines accomplished.

Ore-Ida, or Heinz, lacks a lot of creative appeal in their overall newsroom as well as their news releases. It is so easy to get lost in an abundance of words, especially when the font is so small even though that is a minor detail. The image carries a lot of weight.

Their is so much factual detail packed into each release that the average reader cannot follow what they are talking about. The headlines they have displayed are much too long and as a reader myself, I don’t want to go much further.

The Mayo Clinic has contributed so much to medical research and advancement. Often times, information about medical topics can be too difficult for the general public to understand. Mayo Clinic has managed to make it easy on us.

Each of their news releases has a relatable topic such as “Kids with asthma exposed to secondhand smoke have twice as many hospitalizations” as well as turning this information into lists like a “top ten” list.

The most appealing part of the Mayo Clinic’s news releases are the inclusion of videos to almost all of their stories. Reaching readers on not only a print channel but also visually through video is a creative way to convey their information.

Article Rewrite from Heinz/Ore-Ida:

KRAFT HEINZ AND SHOP412 DESIGN EXCLUSIVE MUSTARD BOTTLE TO RAISE FUNDS FOR FOOD BANK

PITTSBURGH-Kraft Heinz and Shop412 are giving you the opportunity to be a hometown hero. With the Pittsburgh community’s help, they aim to raise enough funds to pay for one million meals in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area. The pride of Pittsburgh is alive and well and by purchasing the exclusive $20 starting Sept. 19, 412xHeinz Yellow Mustard bottle at Shop 412 this community will thrive by helping those who need it most.

Make Them Do a Double Take

Accumulating countless bits of information about a company, product or event and transforming it into an eye-catching and concise presentation for the public is nothing short of an art form. Readers and consumers have the option to buy in or move right along. The goal as PR professionals is to make them do a double take.

Various corporations are utilizing the tool of a fact sheet to communicate information about who they are and what they do in a succinct and intriguing way, media advisories to alert and keep the publics in the know of what they are doing, and media kits for an all-access pass inside.

An up and coming innovative home appliance company, PIRCH, has given customers insight into their methodology and services via their interactive online press kit. Often times companies give merely a surface level perspective into how they run their company, but one interesting aspect of PIRCH’s kit is their transparency.

It is has been said time and time again that millennial value authenticity and PIRCH does an impeccable job of portraying meaning in the services their company provides. One fact that is evident about this company is their willingness to be available to their customers.

They make available contact information for each location as well as opening a window for the reader into what drives them by presenting the company “manifesto” of displaying joy in everything that they do. They hold the desire to take the often draining and mundane task of appliance shopping that all individuals or families must engage in at some point in life and turn it into an enjoyable and memorable experience.

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Screenshot from PIRCH.com/presskit

The purpose of a media or press kit is to make dense information about their company and make it readily accessible to the media and the publics. PIRCH does just this is a creative and easily navigated method. PIRCH is a modern, sleek, and creative company and if I were to see any improvements to this press kit it would be to emphasize that more. This press kit is clean and specific, but I think creativity could be heightened even more.

A company who stresses the importance of meaningful interactions and relationships with customers upholds a strong standard and foundation for their PR material.

A media alert or advisory gives PR professionals a small window of opportunity to communicate the high points about an event or product. What to say and how to say it is crucial in the communication of this information.

Hitting on the who, what, when, where, and why is of the upmost importance and Fotobom along with Austin City Limits presents a spot-on display of how it is done through the promotion of their event at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, TX. Not only do we get to see what the event is comprised of, but this advisory presents the reader and media outlet with an invitation into the company profile.

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Event Flier from Fotobom Media Advisory

Generating attention for their new emoji creating and photoshop phone application, Fotobom strategically partnered with Austin City Limits to bring the community an entertaining lineup and inviting atmosphere to allow publics the opportunity to engage in their application. The advisory points out where and when the event is as well as who they are and who will be there.

Most importantly, and what I find the most beneficial of how this advisory was written, is that they give the reader the opportunity to scope out and analyze the application themselves. By providing links to the app as well as information on how to navigate it the reader is able to engage rather than simply read.

I think the order of information is extremely important in reading a media advisory. The “what” is the event itself, which will draw media to want to use the information. I think that the “when” and “where” tie into the event details themselves and should be placed following the “what”. I believe that the advisory should close with talking about the company as a whole to keep it cohesive and smooth.

This advisory pointed me to the app that gave me the ability to make my dream come true as I  became a part of Taylor Swift’s fierce girl-power posse! This is definitely an event worth attending.

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Photo created using Fotobom application, Google images, and personal Camera Roll

Pendleton Woolen Mills has been in business for over a hundred years. A company with such a rich history holds a vast amount of information about the journey to success; much more information than that which can be confined to one page.

A fact sheet aims to contain information about the executives, a brief history of the foundation of the company, locations, products and services, and interesting insight into the prior.

Pendleton is a family owned business that has created an empire for themselves and the products they create. The fact sheet provides each piece of needed information, which gives the media and the consumers insight into how they got to the place they are today.

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From Pendleton Fact Sheet

Words on a single page can often become blurred and overwhelming to the person seeking the information. This fact sheet is nicely organized in a grid-like manner, but lacks much creativity and is a bit wordy throughout. By condensing the information the impressive journey this family-owned business has taken.

Engaging the media and the consumer through these various tools requires an extreme amount of strategy and planning. The three companies that I have analyzed possess serious strengths in their PR tools that will only further the success of their businesses as a whole.