Friday, April 27, 2007

Best Practices in PR

Throughout the semester our class was asked to collect "best practices" in the industry from interviews we conducted, speakers we heard and sites/blogs we visited. These 5 "best practices" appeared time and again…

#1 Develop a strong relationship with the media…be relevant.

Know which writers would have interest in your story, make it newsworthy and write your release like a journalist. Be thorough and accurate with your coverage and take the time to investigate your best contacts instead of sending blankets of releases. Follow-up calls and knowledge of a writer’s past work can also get your foot in the door.

As one of our class speakers and award-winning blogger Scott Baradell said, “If I receive your release in my inbox twice -- or, say, 11 times -- I question how carefully I've been targeted as a recipient. If you don't even bother to put my name on the correspondence, I know I haven't been targeted at all. Delete, delete.”

His site,, gives other important tips for PR pros and amateurs alike.

#2 Get BUZZ…not INK.

I interviewed the Director of Corporate Communications at Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, Greg Artkop. He advised, “If there’s one thing that I would encourage anybody to do in this business, it’s to think different about what you’re doing…you want to be the news, you don’t want to make news.” He added, “It’s not wacky, it’s wow” that you aim for.

This does not necessarily mean coming up with goofy gimmicks. Let the story tell itself. If it’s newsworthy, people will want it and you won’t have to sell it. The obstacle is creating buzz and getting people talking, and often that means simply targeting the right media.

Recently, Artkop and his team took Dr Pepper’s HUNT FOR MORE contest to Jimmy Kimmel Live and did an in-studio hunt, with a $23,000 prize for the winner. Artkop pursued this show because it reached Dr Pepper’s target demographic. Instead of only sending press releases to local newspapers and magazines, this one hit reached two million viewers, and Jimmy Kimmel Live ran an advertisement during the show and had coverage on its website for several days.

That’s how you go beyond wacky to get the big hit for your product or client. Artkop stresses, “Success comes in different sizes.” Public relations practitioners must “be realistic about what [they] want to accomplish,” he said.

#3 Stay current…follow trends.

In addition to staying current with media contacts, it is crucial to read the paper, check online sources, track your client's image and investigate the competition. Artkop explained the importance of reading everything. “If you can understand what’s going on in the media you will be able to take advantage of it," he said.

#4 Protect your rep.

With hundreds of press releases hitting media desks everyday, accuracy and credibility are paramount. By using “bait and switch” tactics or exaggerating how newsworthy your pitch is, you will quickly lose the respect of media and any possibility of getting your information in print.
PR is often synonymous with spin, and to earn the respect of your publics, media and other contacts, it is crucial to be objective, newsworthy and let the stories speak for themselves. Especially in cities like Dallas with so many other PR professionals, earning a bad reputation could end your career. Protect your reputation by working with integrity, as it will preserve your contacts and keep you in business.

#5 Learn how to use and assess blogs…have a crisis plan.

The marketplace is becoming more digital each day, and blogs are a new powerful medium for expression. While blogs can be used as a tool to promote a product or craft an image to the public, they can also be used to attack your latest ideas or executives.

Blogs can be used to your advantage to gauge public opinion about your client and your competitors and receive direct feedback from your consumers. Good practices for crisis communications are essential in the blogosphere too, however. When you receive bad ink on a blog, you are able to respond to that bloggers’ concerns in a public place for others to see, possibly winning over the disgruntled blogger and that blog’s viewers with a timely, thoughtful response.

With readers receiving information from radio, television, newspapers, magazines and the Internet, learning ways to craft a positive image and combat bad ink in each medium are essential or your client will suffer.

This reveals the need for readily-available crisis strategies. As noted in an earlier blog, Levick Strategic Communications provides important tips for PR professionals dealing with crises,
This is the last official blog for the semester…meant to culminate a semester of researching and interviewing. These practices are important for amateurs and pros alike, and by keeping up with these 5, PR success should hopefully ensue!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Look-Look at them! has challenged our class to research the trend of the “New Entrepreneur” as we see it at Southern Methodist University, a private university in Dallas with approximately 11,000 students (6,000 are undergraduates). SMU is embedded in the up-scale Park Cities area where tuition for 2007-2008 will exceed $40,000/year for undergraduates living on campus.

As it takes more than vision and ambition to become an entrepreneur, SMU students seem to have a distinct advantage in regards to the monetary backing and resources necessary to make dreams into entrepreneurial realities.

Below are my responses to Look-Look's three questions…

1) “How and where have you seen New Entrepreneurs in your world?”

Personally, I have taken classes with at least two of these “New Entrepreneurs.”

One SMU student, Lindsey Marie, has her own accessories line of fashion-forward necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Visit her website,

(Photo compliments of Lindsey Marie's website)

Another student from the hilltop, John Thomas, has been an entrepreneur since his teenage years. By age 16, Thomas had formed his own computer consulting company.

His passion is real estate; however, and Thomas used the cash flow from his consulting company to launch his real estate investing career at age 18.

His next goal is to own a development company and build large shopping centers (“lifestyle centers”). He claims he knew he was interested in real estate development by age 5; he’s a third generation developer.
Thomas explained, “The idea of creating something from a vision and being able to give people a place to work, shop, live and play is incredible to me.”

2) “Do you see a shift toward a certain type of attitude toward work?"

Young entrepreneurs today seem to share numerous similarities in their attitudes toward work.

Calvin Carter, an SMU alumni who started a Web development company while studying at SMU in the ‘90s, did not stop with one successful venture...and neither did Thomas.
According to Dallas Observer, “He was an entrepreneur. He didn't dream of running companies. He had an itch to create them. He had, as they call it, ‘the bug.’” (Photo compliments of Dallas Observer)

The example of Thomas as a third-generation developer supports the “domino effect” theory of new entrepreneurs...we often go into similar jobs as our parents or family members.
“When young people grow up in an entrepreneurial or self-employed household, of which the NASE [National Association for the Self-Employed] estimates there are between 19 million and 22 million, they're much more likely to start a business themselves."

According to a 2006 issue of BusinessWeek, “The defining qualities of this year's fearless young entrepreneurs: They've all got clear revenue models, their ideas fill a gap they found in their own lives, and because of technology, they're operating on a skinnier shoestring than ever before.”

To operate on a skinnier shoestring, “several of our featured entrepreneurs' businesses have assembled teams of employees that work from home, making office overhead a nonissue,” a 2006 BusinessWeek article reported (see link above).

Attitudes about work are changing, and are changing early. BusinessWeek reported the results of a 2006 poll of middle and high school students. The youth entrepreneurship organization, Junior Achievement, found that "70.9% would like to be self-employed at some point in their lives. That's up from 68.6% in 2005 and 64% in 2004” (same link).

A testament to the prevalence and success of entrepreneurs near SMU is the Dallas chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). It has 162 members, between the ages of 23-51, with average member sales totaling nearly $9.93 million!

3) “How do you think this will change business in the future, if at all?”

With the ability to handle work via computer, without a storefront and with employees scattered across the globe, business might shift from face-to-face interaction to more isolation and cyber contact. According to Ejovi Nuwere, a young, accomplished entrepreneur, being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely job (check out his site,

Also, social online networking and blogging communities might become more developed and specialized as more business becomes linked to the Internet and online forums are more imperative to communication within or between companies.
That's my take on the trend sure to read other blogs from my class for more student viewpoints on the "New Entrepreneur."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

SMU Baseball: "They Make it Rain"


So, the sad news is SMU Baseball has yet to play an NCBA game. We drove down to A&M Commerce this past weekend only to find its field was far too muddy and wet to play on. We're scheduling some make-up times, and it looks like Commerce will be driving up here next Wednesday to play a double-header in Dallas. (I'm going to have a talk with the guys at practice tonight about laying off of the rain dances during warm-ups because someone is taking them way too seriously! :)

Anyway, our hats and jerseys are in, our practices and tournaments are set for the rest of the semester, and now we just need to get on a field and see what we can go against these NCBA teams. A special thanks to those in the SMU Athletic Department who made the trip down to Commerce to support us...we hope to see you at the ballpark again soon!

Revised Schedule:
Apr. 14-15 v. UNT @ W.T. White H.S. (Noon start both days)

Apr. 21-22 v. Baylor @ Richland College (Noon start Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.)

Apr. 28-29 @ Tech

PR-wise, my next blog will be about the trend research I've been doing for I'll save my findings until this time next week, so be sure to check back!

I hope everyone has a great week and a happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MLB's Civil Rights Game

Indians v. Cardinals...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

SMU Baseball v. A&M Commerce this weekend!!

It's been a long time! I'm just getting back into the swing of things now that I'm home from Memphis and spring break.

The baseball team got rained out of its first tournament at Tech last weekend, so we've moved that tournament to the end of our schedule, April 28-29th.

This weekend will be our first NCBA tournament...meaning it's official! We'll play at A&M Commerce, about an hour from SMU, this Saturday and Sunday. We play two, 7-inning games starting at noon Saturday, and one, 9-inning game starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.

A fanbase is forming on campus, and we should have a decent number of students coming to support us this weekend!

Our jerseys came in the mail last week, and we had a great practice down in Arlington this past weekend. I'm excited to see how we play in real game situations against some really good competition...the team chemistry is really strong and it's exciting to watch the guys hit the field together!

It's been frustrating, as always, struggling to find playing fields week to week, but we're doing our best. Inaugural seasons are always tough in the way of funding and facilities, but we're making it all work...and we have been receiving some alumni and Student Senate support recently, which has been a great relief!

I'll keep you posted on our official results and schedules over the next few weeks.

Hope all is well and you have a great week!! I'd love any comments about SMU, baseball, PR, or anything else on your minds!

Thanks for reading...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Perfect Face for PR?

This week, each class member had to select a PR case study and present the situation, the tactics used and the outcome of the campaign. We were also asked to contribute our two cents on the execution and results of the campaign…

The Situation: Jongleurs, a comedy club chain in the UK, hoped to bolster ticket sales for its new dinner and comedy packages during the pre-Christmas period of 2006. It enlisted the help of Van Communications. The goals for the campaign were to promote Jongleurs as a “leading authority” on comedy and associate it with the UK’s finest comedy talent.

The Strategy: Van Communications launched the Face for Comedy campaign, looking for the “perfect face for comedy,” from June-November of 2006 with a £10,000 budget. Jongleurs commissioned Dr. Anthony Little, who has specialized in facial perception for eight years, to analyze the faces of top UK comedians to see if being “born with a funny face” could explain the success of some comedians over others.

With special software, Dr. Little fused the facial features from 179 pictures of twenty popular comedians into a face many likened to the creator of "The Office," Ricky Gervais. The findings revealed softer, more feminine features were more likely to make audiences laugh.
Gervais endorsed the campaign. It was targeted at national print and broadcast media mostly, and a presentation was made for media of this “perfect face for comedy.”

The Evaluation: The campaign was mentioned on national broadcasts such as BBC1, Channel 4, Five and Sky News, as well as in print in the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Times and The Independent. The campaign also received at least 48 online mentions.

An in-house analysis found 110 items of Jongleurs-branded coverage relating its two desired messages as a “leading authority” with the “best comedy talent.”

The Outcome: The campaign seemed to meet with great success, although I’m not sure the tie to Jongleurs was as apparent as it could have been. The idea of a “perfect face for comedy” and the creation of a face that resembled someone famous in comedy at the time was both clever and appropriate, but this story alone seems to have generated most of the interest. I wonder if the tie to Jongleurs could have been more enmeshed in these efforts.

At the time of this campaign, I had no idea it was going on (it was launched in the UK for Jongleurs…also based in the UK), therefore I cannot give my genuine opinion of the campaign and its success aside from what I gleaned from different UK sources.

The comedy chain’s reports found a twelve percent increase in ticket sales for the dinner and comedy package in the pre-Christmas period.

It is difficult to tell how credible the study of the "perfect face for comedy" actually was, however. Dr. Little showed pictures of faces with various features to volunteers and asked them to rate how funny they thought the person was. If this method was in fact used, the volunteer samples were not necessarily random or representative of all comedy club audiences.

A critic of this study, Tommy Sheppard, director of Edinburgh's The Stand comedy club, found no evidence from his experiences to support the idea of certain facial features predicting comedians’ receptions from a crowd.

This campaign hit on a topic of particular popular interest (the fusion of faces into the “perfect face for comedy”) which appealed to everyone…this creative angle was well-utilized and received significant media coverage. Whether the campaign actually brought Jongleurs the boost in sales it was looking for is another story, and less was said about the success of the campaign than the campaign itself.

Jongleurs seemed pleased with the campaign of Van Communications, and judging by the big media hits the Face for Comedy campaign received, we can assume it met many of its initial objectives and had better, unforeseen results because of its work with a professional, Dr. Little, and because the likeness of the “perfect face” was eerily similar to an actual celebrity in the industry who willingly cooperated and endorsed the campaign.

I'd say Van Communications was on to something...the perfect face for PR, perhaps?


Thursday, March 1, 2007

SMU Baseball: Road Trip #1


So once again my life is consumed by baseball. Aside from crafting this weekend's line-up and preparing for our first road trip to Kingwood College (KC), I've been compiling a huge list of sources for a research analysis of minor league baseball. It's been crazy, but I'm really happy I can devote so much of my time to the sport I love...I can't imagine spending this semester any other way!

This Saturday we head to KC for a double-header...our first real test against another NCBA team this season...and also my first time wearing baseball pants-haha! Hopefully I'll have a victory or two to report back on next week! The first will be getting the team onto the van by 7 a.m...yeah, good luck with that (0-1) :)

With the help of a few webmasters our website is finally becoming a reality. The information currently posted is old and will be updated over the next few days, so be sure to check back for stats, pictures, schedules and player bios!

On another note, our class is prepping for our meeting with Cure magazine Monday. I'm looking forward to discussing the vision for the Cure/Heal blog and helping them make this forum for cancer patients, survivors and their families and caregivers a tremendous resource!

I head to Memphis with the basketball team on Tuesday for the conference tournament too (I'll be the little one wailing on the saxophone). It'll be one busy week, but spring break is in sight!

More to come...have a great weekend!