Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Closing a Chapter

This year has passed rather quickly. I swear, I blinked and it was over! Well, today happens to be my last day of class at SMU ever (except for those fun things called “finals”). I have had such an amazing four years here. It is really difficult to comprehend this chapter being closed.

After graduating I plan to move back to Southern California and will call Los Angeles home again. The Marketing/PR biz seems a good fit but havent decided which experience is right for me yet (corporate or client side).

I am so excited to start working! It may sound odd, but really, I am. I am eager to learn and find a job I am passionate about. Eventually, I would really like to do something philanthropic, whether it is my career or a side venture of my own. After working a few years, I plan to go back to school to obtain an MBA, and then continue in whatever direction my career takes me.

As for this blog, I will continue to post so please check back!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Best Practices

This semester, our class has taken a look at the PR world outside the textbook. Our class had opportunities to work with Heal magazine on blog concepts, attend a press conference kicking off Sheryl Crow’s Stop Global Warming College Tour, and participate in a trend challenge for Look-Look. We’ve also heard from several guest speakers in public relations about various communications practices and reality of the field.

I would like to say thank you Professor Flournoy for taking the time to seek out practitioners and bring them to our classroom. It has been a valuable experience. To our guests, thank you for your time and sharing knowledge and advice with us.

Some of the top best practices I have learned are discussed below:

1. Keep up with new solutions and how to use them.
“New rules require new solutions. You need to know everything about the tools people are using today” –Kathryn Smith, Visible Technologies

It’s not just “ok” to learn Marketing 101. You need to learn the digital world and how to protect a client or company from blog scandals. Visible Technologies has developed resources to track blogs and respond in record time. Check it out.

When you find out whose talking about your client, you must respond quickly in order to maintain reputations. You can’t tell a blogger to take down negative posts about your client. You must learn how to put out a fire quickly. "No comment" is simply unacceptable. With such little control over digital media today, a journalist can say the same thing as a blogger and yet, journalist will be fired. The blogger won’t.

2. Research“Research is absolutely crucial,” says Stacy Gaswirth, executive vice president of the Shelton Group. You must research everything: your client’s industry, media channels and who will realistically be interested in news about your client, what key experts and analysts you need backing you up, what the competition is doing, foreseen opportunities and threats to both the client and industry, and the latest ways to drive message through the clutter.

3. Think internationally
As technology has grown in every major market, information is accessible to a much broader audience than ever before. “Clients are also demanding a global presence,” said Gaswirth. You need to know how to grow your client’s business outside the immediate and expected market. As a pr practitioner, it is your job to have the network to make it happen. If you don’t know how to do business in Asia, find someone who does and learn. You cannot afford to be lazy, distributing the same message in the US as you would in another country. Not understanding important cultural differences will send your client in an uproar if he gets bad press.

4. Build media relations and industry analyst campaigns
One thing a pr practitioner can’t survive without is great media relation’s skills. You must know how to build and maintain a strong network, be strategic and selective in channel distribution, and be credible. Last week Gaswirth stressed the importance of building a strong industry analyst campaign, something often overlooked. The people who will help you support your claim are vital to your credibility.

5. Get a mentor!
Among the advice Gaswirth gave for entering the PR field, one major point she made was the importance of having a mentor. Going into this industry, especially if you are working for a large company, it is important to have someone giving you advice and guiding you along the way. The best companies will have a mentorship program. If they don’t, ask! Gaswirth says, “asking will not only impress employers, it will show a desire to really learn.”

A Final Note
I believe all college communications departments should be offering courses like this if they are not already. Yes, it is important to hone traditional writing skills, but equally important after a strong foundation is staying on top of the changing landscape. Keep filling your marketing toolbox with new strategies and strengthen your ability to use them. If you don’t, the next up and comer will.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Entrepreneurship at SMU: A Trend Worth Following

The Mission

Recently, our communications class received a trend challenge from a Los Angeles based trend hunting company, Look-Look. The company has eyed a shift in the way young people (ages 19-35) are redefining their values concerning work, career and happiness. The trend emerging from the shift is a rise in young entrepreneurship. They coin the trend, the “New Entrepreneur”.

Our role is to dive in and investigate the trend as it manifests in our world: on the SMU campus.

The Landscape Change

Today’s generation of twenty-something’s have a different mentality toward their career future than generations past. One thing hasn’t changed though: Americans are dreamers. In 2007 and beyond, those dreams are becoming more and more accessible through the advancement of technology, accessibility of information, and rapid discovery and growth of niche markets.

Previously, the traditional corporate route seemed to be expected. Now, it’s an option. Climbing the ladder within a company was standard, employee loyalty was important in going further and job-hopping was looked down upon. The job market has now changed. Entrepreneurs are emerging everywhere and they are taking business risks at younger ages- carving their own path and making their dreams happen.

With many examples of young people making it big( like Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban), being an entrepreneur seems more tangible. Can anyone can make a buck off what they are passionate about? Not quite. So what makes a great idea sink or swim?

SMU's own, Markus Pinyero, owner of Urban Taco, shared his thoughts with me on what it takes to make a dream a reality.

"New Entrepreneur" Spotlight: Markus Pinyero

A 2004 SMU graduate will soon be taking on Dallas' modern mexican restaurant market. Markus Pinyero, the 24-year old proprietor will open Urban Taco, setting the standard as the first upscale taqueria in Dallas this May. Urban Taco will showcase a truly Mexican menu straight from Pinyero’s upbringing in Mexico City.

Set in a prime Dallas business location, Mockingbird Station, the taqueria has already gained international attention. This April, Food Arts Magazine, an international restaurant magazine, made mention of Pinyero’s Urban Taco.

....more to come

Other SMU Entrepreneurs

Scott Baradell: Idea Grove
Blake Mycoskie: TOMS Shoes
Scott Summerall: Summerall Properties
Christie Groom: Camp Rascals
Philipe Sterling: Centre
Guy Bellaver: Author of “Dumb It Down”

Monday, March 5, 2007

Blogging: Digital Democracy

Fast Company Expert blogger, Bill Cammack, recently wrote about an outstanding clip discussing the blogging world. PBS Frontline is currently doing a series called "News War: What's Happening to the News" worthy of checking out.

The clip titled "The New Universe of Online Media" aired Feb. 27 discusses specific examples of a changing media landscape (See: Part 3, Section 19).

To fellow bloggers here is some food for thought:
Jeff Jarvis, founder of BuzzMachine.com, says "I don't think we are very far along in the path of development of blogging and journalism. I think there is much more to be done. But I don't think it's just about reporting ones story, it's also about setting the agenda. It's also about keeping stories alive and telling mainstream media what they ought to be doing."

Also, Bill Cammack's post "Citizen Journalism" provides great insight into the issue.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Future of Mass Media

Mass Media

In a rapidly changing media landscape, I can only wonder what the future of mass media looks. One example of possible new direction is the merging of citizen journalism and traditional media. Springwise spotted the latest example of this in Denmark. A local free newspaper is allowing bloggers and journalists to compete for spots in the paper. The question springwise brings up is if these contributors will get paid for their content one of these days. The full article can be accessed here.

Can this new idea catch on? Will a public demand for professionalism override amature journalism? Quite frankly, blogging and citizen journalism may only go so far. Education and experience is a valuable thing.

This topic will be followed in further posts.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cancer Survivors To Find Community Through Heal Magazine Blog

CURE Magazine, a quarterly publication for people coping with cancer on a daily basis, will launch Heal: Living Well After Cancer this May.

"While CURE focuses on helping readers get well, Heal is about staying well in mind, body and spirit. Heal takes readers to the heart and soul of the cancer survivorship experience with powerful, in-depth coverage of survivors, family, health care professionals, advocates, and others who are intimately tied to recovery and life after cancer."-Heal website

This semester, my class is offering ideas to the magazine for building an online community for its audience through blogging.

After spending time trying to understand the mindset of a survivor and what they need, hope seems to be an important theme. Heal's community blog has tremendous potential to deliver this. Keeping content realistic yet optimistic will be important in meeting survivor needs.

Here are some thought's on what I imagine "community" looking like for Heal:

1. Sharing Stories

One great tool Heal can take advantage of is the power of a video blog. The blog should offer its community the option to document their lives, tell their story, and motivate others. Heal readers would submit their videos to Heal for posting in a regular spot on the site. One great example I found of a survivor story is actually a news clip but it touches on important content for Heal Audiences.

2. Creative Contests

Survivors everywhere have differnt ways of self-expression and coping with life after cancer. Creative outlets may include writing poetry, painting and photography among other things. Why not use contests in these areas to draw people to the Heal blog? Getting people involved in self-expression can help Heal foster a greater sense of community among its readers.

Introducing Heal: The Power of Film

One of the greatest examples Heal can look to in growing it's community is the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The communication strategies LAF uses are noteworthy and impactful. One specific way the LAF communicates its message effectively is through its "Manifesto".

How would Heal benefit from producing such a film?
Words are powerful, but the combination of elements in this video grasps you in a way that could not be achieved otherwise. If Heal could put it's mission into video format, there would be tremendous potential to grow community. Today's online resources allow anyone to share what Heal is about with the click of a button. This means potentially greater reach to Heal's audience and those who could contribute their expertise to the blog.

These are just a few ideas for Heal. More posts will follow on this topic.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Media Relations

"All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends.
All things being not quite so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.
Hint: To climb the ladder of success, you don’t need more techniques and strategies, you need more friends.”
–Jeffrey Gitomer

Developing and maintaining strong relationships with the media is crucial in the Public Relations field. With the boom of new media in the last decade, the job of the publicist is rising to a new level. The PR industry is forced to think outside the box, address transparency and cover all forms of media. Practitioners must learn how to connect with everyone from expert bloggers to broadcast journalists.

However technology changes communication though in the future, it does not change the fact that relationships are everything. Author Jeffrey Gitomer gets to the core of networking and relationship building in his book, The Little Black Book of Connections: 6.5 Assets for Networking Your Way to Rich Relationships.

Words of advice from Gitomer:

How to connect with Influential people requires these things:
1. An ability to get in front of them so they will come to know you as someone worthy of connecting with.
2. When you meet the person of influence for the first time, you better have something powerful to ask or something powerful to say, or you will have blown an opportunity from the very outset.
3. Have a way to communicate after the meeting.

“The question you have to ask yourself is: how can I make people better as a result of connecting with me?
-Note well: This is not just a strategy to connect at a networking event; this is a strategy to connect with anyone, anywhere, at anytime.”

Intern Insight

This past summer I took a internship position with sports lifestyle brand, Puma, in West Hollywood. Working in the Entertainment Marketing Division, I saw networking at it’s best. Several people in this division have PR background and use it to get face time for the brand in everything from Self magazine to US Weekly, to Entourage.

A few lessons I learned on the job that make the difference:

1. Who you know and who knows you?
When you have friends in high places it can make your job much easier. If it takes 5 people to get through to the right person to break your story, it helps to know him or her. If you don’t, know the person right before them. You’ll save a lot of time.

Being in the heart of the media’s social scene is important too. Are you visible? If they tend to hang out at a particular lunch spot or bar, there you should be also. You cant depend on Myspace to have a friend connection. You need real face time yourself but make sure you on the ball, even in casual settings.

2. People like free stuff
If you are looking for a magazine to recommend or showcase your product, send them some stuff free along with a media kit. Don’t confuse this with bribing. Give the media the chance to speak of your product from experience, which is better anyways in today’s world.

3. Experience and credibility are crucial
Need I say more?

Working with the Media

From those on the front lines, here are some great words of advice for improving Media Relations Skills.

Jennifer Matarazzo, the associate editor of Fitness Magazine gave PR Newswire tips on pitching to Fitness.

1. Jennifer likes email because it is easier and can be checked frequently.
2. Make sure what you pitch is appropriate to the publication
3. Know who your pitching to and what they do.
4. “I’ll get back to you” means she will call if interested. If a journalist is truly interested in your product they will always return your call.
5. Matarazzo doesn’t mind direct calls if it’s in the morning when it is quieter.

She also informs PR professionals that “if you’re sending information about a product, include the price and always state ‘what makes it cool.’ What is different about that particular product? If your sending a study, include how the results were achieved.”

As I mentioned earlier, for product submission to Fitness, Matarazzo stresses the importance of testing the product herself and writing on experience, not a press release.

*This article may be found here

A Final Word from Ben

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
– Ben Franklin

"Be Smart!" as my dad would say. For those entering the PR field, keep this in mind, be humble, ethical and make friends.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Top Super Bowl Commercial

Entrepreneur.com recently discussed the results of the best ad during Super Bowl 41. Just to keep in mind, these spots will now cost you $2.6 million for 30-second spots. Go big or go home right? The list was compiled on ad ranking site, www.ADBOWL.com.

Entrepreneur spoke with Steve McKee, president of ad agency McKee Wallwork and had this to say:

"On the whole, the ads this year lacked a certain spark," said McKee. "There weren't any truly big ideas or breakthrough concepts. A number of spots were well executed, but, in general, this year's ads were a little disappointing. But the great thing about Super Bowl ads is everybody's entitled to their own opinion."

The #1 ad is BudLight's "Rock Paper Scissors." It was one of my favorites and it would be a shame for ya'll to have missed it. So, here it is!

You can learn more at www.ADBOWL.com

Friday, February 2, 2007

The New PR Tool

Change is happening and it is happening fast. Although blogging may never become obsolete in the media world, it is revolutionizing how we get information and who can give it.

Many people are learning to turn to expert bloggers for their personal opinion on a matter or product as opposed to taking what they hear on TV at face value. Blogging has truly opened the opportunity to influence the consumer in a way never possible before.

Blogging has a somewhat candid and transparent approach to communicating. It taps into the power of word of mouth marketing. One example of this was caught on TV recently. This week on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, the CEO and the Medical Director of Bosley were interviewed on a new technology in hair implants. A procedure like this can be expensive, costing from $5,700 to $16,500. They decided to document the whole procedure using blogging to create some buzz.



“Media has become a participatory sport, in which not just journalists, but literally anyone can provide their perspectives on what they are seeing and what is happening.”
– rossdawsonblog.com

For PR practitioners, blogging is the perfect opportunity to bring their experience, knowledge and networking skills to the table. The ability to influence the audience perception can dramatically increase through the power of blogs.

In a post on Global PR Week 2.0, Elizabeth Albrycht discusses the importance of how blogging in PR is truly a network building tool. She believes, “the primary function of corporate communications and public relations today is network building. A prime reason blogs are such good tools is that they are link heavy, and the link is the core technology in making networks visible.”

Who you are linked to is important in this industry. In the world of networking, “it’s all who you know” and who thinks your credible enough to recommend you, or link you to themselves. Credibility is crucial in succeeding in the blogging world. Many are using this to their advantage. Today, CEO’s like Jonathan Schwartz, president and CEO of Sun Microsystems, are using this media outlet to promote openness and transparencey in business. Other businesses with blogs just added this year are corporate giants like Nike, Wells Fargo, McDonald’s and Starwood Hotels.

The following videos offer more insight to both the future of blogging and how it is being used today.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Generating Buzz

Shoes For Tomorrow

A new benchmark has been set in corporate philanthropy. One company, TOMS Shoes, isn't interested in holding a stuffy black tie affair to raise a buck. For every pair of Argentine inspired shoes the company sells, they donate one pair to a child in need. Personally.

In October, Mycoskie along with several volunteers headed to Argentina to hand deliver 10,000 pairs of TOMS shoes. What a rewarding experience to be in the business of giving back.

Blake Mycoskie's brilliant concept is vastly different from what is currently in the market now. Matching one for one, customers can't help but feel good about buying the comfortable and chic shoes knowing a child in need will also be receiving one. The company's concept and "do-good" priorities make it a PR dream. TOMS will certainly be a hot new company to watch.

Check TOMS out at:


Would you do life differently?

A newer "techie" way of getting a little buzz generated about your brand may be to join the 3,054,063 people from around the globe in another life. Sound odd? Yeah. I first heard of the company when I was browsing the usual business magazines, Fortune, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. Second Life happened to pop up in almost ever magazine! Since only 2003, everyone from IBM to American Apparel are plugged into this digital world. Using real money to create a life or new business venture in this virtual realm may be a great marketing opportunity to look into.



Sunday, January 21, 2007

The First of Many

Hi! My name is Lauren and I am a senior CCPA and Advertising student at Southern Methodist University. In my advanced communications class we are learning to use blogging professionally.

This is the first of many posts to come. Although the blogging world is slightly overwhelming to newcomers, I think I'll catch on. It is such a practical and important tool in today's communications world. The networking possibilities are tremendous. I hope this class will spark an interest in blogging that will last beyond the course.

Looking forward to this semester! : )