The Final Countdown

Here we are at the end of the semester. It’s been 14 weeks of tests, papers, and classes. Of course, some have been more enjoyable than others. I actually love realizing this, though, because it makes me more confident in my academic career.

The classes I enjoyed the most this semester were my public relations courses. I have grown so much (as a student; I’m still only five feet tall!) and I have gained many new PR skills. I am now much better at writing press releases, putting together media kits, and blogging.

I also learned information about topics I previously did not know existed, like corporate social responsibility and global public relations. These are two paths I am definitely going to continue learning about and possibly even look into as careers for the future.

Looks like this person is GLOBAL Made.

I have also learned much about politics in this election year, and PR as public affairs. In the past, I was very uninterested and uninformed in politics; this year, I was able to come to a better understanding about the US political system, and I even voted for the first time!

It’s much more exciting than it looks!

Overall, this semester was great. It makes me so excited for the spring: new classes, a possible internship, and getting to learn so much through other experiences. I would like to end this series of blog posts with a quote from Buddha: “Be where you are; otherwise, you will miss your life.”

There is still another week of classes, and then final exams. I am starting a new job, preparing for the holidays, and still thinking about the semester ahead. I try to live by this quote, though, to remind me that there is so much to learn in every situation, every day. Even if I am not blogging about my PR life, know that I am out in the world living it, and I hope you are doing what makes you happy too.

The Time Watching Ellen on YouTube Inspired Me to Blog about PR.

Today I was doing pretty much anything I could to avoid doing homework. It’s the last full week of classes here at Temple University so I have more to do than ever… and naturally, that makes me want to procrastinate more than ever. I decided to watch the Ellen Show on YouTube.

Let me preface this post by saying I LOVE Ellen. I think she’s hilarious, smart, and, for lack of a better word, awesome.

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I could literally watch clips of the Ellen Show online for hours.

I totally respect female comedians. For starters, they continue to shatter the glass ceiling women face in every career path, and something we talked about in one of my PR classes. The United States, like many other countries in the world, is still male-dominated; however, every time I turn on the tv or watch a movie with a genuinely funny woman on screen, I just think it’s the greatest thing… ok, I’m done ranting now. Another less feminist reason I respect female comedians is because I love to laugh and respect a good joke no matter who tells it.

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Mindy Kaling, one of my other favorite female comedians, on the cover of her book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” Yes, I own this book, and no, I’m not ashamed. If you want to borrow it, just let me know.

Anyway, back to Ellen. Today as I was watching Ellen, I noticed something. When Ellen talks to the guests on her show, she knows about their lives. Now, some people may think “DUH!” but I think this is important to note. Ellen’s team researches the celebrities and other guests Ellen has on her show, and then Ellen learns the interesting and important facts her team finds. It’s just like in public relations: PR people look up facts before writing news releases, talking to the press, etc.

Another thing I noticed when watching Ellen was the show is taped live (once again, “DUH!”). For me, though, this really brought to light the necessity of celebrities’ PR people. One example of this was when Ellen was talking to Jennifer Lawrence, Hunger Games star. Jennifer seems really down-to-earth and is one of those celebrities who often just says what she thinks. I think she’s really funny, but she definitely needs someone in PR around her: without a filter, Jennifer could say something detrimental to someone else’s or her own reputation without even realizing it!

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Jennifer and Ellen getting ready to chat about the Hunger Games and why Jennifer’s cat keeps peeing on her bed.

So as I continue to “do homework,” I’ll secretly be thinking about people who really could use someone in PR telling them what to say or what NOT to say when appearing on the Ellen Show.

What do you think? Have you heard people say things and think “oh no she didn’t!!!”? Would having a PR professional on hand be helpful in that kind of situation? Leave a comment!

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Black Friday / Cyber Monday MADNESS

Today I got an overwhelming number of emails about Cyber Monday, and for the most part, these emails were advertisements. “Buy this!” they cried out to me in multi-colored fonts. “It’s new and awesome and such a steal!”

Now, I love a good sale as much as the next 20-year-old woman. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, though, are two days of the year that really frustrate me. In one of my public relations classes, we have talked many times about how few products are truly “new” and “improved.” I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this seriously made an impact on me, especially with the shopping holidays upon us.

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This scene may be VERY familiar for some of you!

When I have a break in schoolwork or could use some money for rent or groceries, I do freelance work with a company here in Philly. Essentially, I get hired as a brand ambassador for a specific event or launch in the Philadelphia area. This usually has something to do with promotions or marketing.

I mention this part-time job because I spent just two of the past three weekends in an electronic store as a brand ambassador promoting a specific tablet. This tablet is the “new and improved” version of the old one, created by the same company, with a larger screen and a larger price tag.

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Don’t be fooled by false advertising, especially if it seems too good to be true.

For the majority of my time working, I stood in the electronic store and played with the tablet. People came up to me and I gave them demos, and many customers were satisfied with simply that. Others were tougher. They asked about the differences between this tablet and the older model, or this brand versus other leading brands.

I was not trained to answer those types of questions; it was assumed when customers asked, I would recommend they speak to an employee of the electronics store. I reflected on the important questions people asked, however, and realized they were crucial to understand from a PR point of view.

In the end, there were some differences between the upgraded tablet and it’s “outdated” counterpart, which I was excited to learn and impart upon customers. Depending on the customers’ specific reasons for purchasing a tablet, though, I could not always in good conscience recommend the tablet I was promoting.

On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I feel like people get caught up in the madness that ensues. Now that the huge rush is over, I would love to think advertisements would calm down; however, that kind of advertising sells. It is up to you whether you give in to it or not.

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Things to be Thankful for: Corporate Social Responsibility

Here in the United States, Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and food- all of my favorite things! It’s also a time of reflection. On every cliche Thanksgiving TV show episode, family members sit around the dinner table and take turns sharing the things for which they are thankful.

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“I’m thankful we all have matching outfits for this picture!”

This year, I found something to be thankful for in one of my public relations classes, and it’s called Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR. CSR is essentially the public relations term for philanthropy, and it is something with which many companies are becoming increasingly involved.

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One example: teaching children how to read.

CSR is awesome because it is a large-scale way of giving back to the public. My textbook, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, gives an example: the Ronald McDonald House Charities, a safe-haven for children with serious health issues and their families. This especially struck me because I personally know people who have benefited from the Ronald McDonald House. In a way, you could say I’m thankful for McDonald’s.

Like the Ronald McDonald House Charities, many CSR programs are geared toward helping the youth, which I think is vital in this world. There is a wide range of programs, though, and corporations help where they see fit.

Regardless, CSR is a win-win situation: corporations give help to people who need it, and in turn the public sees those corporations in a better light. People are much more likely to support a specific company if they know the company supports their favorite charity.

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Ronald McDonald wants to help!

So while you’re reheating Thanksgiving leftovers, take a minute to think about the things you’re thankful for this year. Also, consider what your field of work does to give back to the community. So many people in this world deal with issues overlooked by the general public, yet hopefully there is a CSR or other kind of program which works to support those who struggle- see if you can support those programs. If there’s not, determine if there’s something else you can do to help!

Be thankful for what you have, and enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend!

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Frankenstorm, Furby, and Other Hype

Today, I’m posting from my warm, cozy bed, where I’ve been hanging out all day, despite the fact that it’s a Monday. “How is this possible?” you may be asking yourself… or not.

As most people here in Philadelphia are aware, we should be feeling the full effects of Hurricane Sandy through tomorrow. Thanks to Sandy, most universities and schools (and some businesses) are closed until then!

Hurricane Sandy, as some people see it.

I wanted to write about this, though, not to update you on the weather. I actually wanted to address a common practice in public relations: hype. Hype is over-exaggerating something to make it seem better, cooler, or “sexier” than it really is.

For example, take Hurricane Sandy. Every news outlet, website, and person on the street is talking about the storm: when it will hit, where it will hit, the severity… I could go on. This weekend, people made frantic trips to the grocery store and Walmart, and someone even posted a picture on Facebook of a completely empty bread aisle. Everyone is going nuts.

This is the effect hype sometimes has on the general population: it can cause a panic. Right now it’s only raining, but my mom keeps texting me to make sure I’m doing fine, and everyone is still freaking out on Twitter.

Hype can have other effects, too, which is my tie-in to Furby. Recently, I’ve been seeing advertisements on the side on my Facebook about the “new and improved” Furby. Hasbro is trying to appeal to the masses, right before the holiday season, by using hype to influence people’s thoughts and attitudes. Children who are too young to have ever had a Furby will see TV advertisements and think “I have to have this!” because of the exciting marketing.

Apparently, the new Furbys communicate with each other… didn’t the old ones do that too? I remember because it creeped me out!

The bottom line is, don’t get caught up in hype. Not much is truly new or incredible anymore: things are merely improvements upon the past.

How are you feeling about the storm: where you overwhelmed by the hype? And what do you think of the new Furby? Do you encounter any other hype in your life? …leave a comment below!

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Nutella: The New College Craze

In this post I’d like to address two key ideas related to public relations: promotions/marketing and two-way communication.

If you are a Temple student or faculty member, you may have seen the Nutella Truck yesterday parked on Broad Street near Cecil B. Moore. Nutella, a hazelnut and chocolate spread similar to peanut butter, originated in Italy.

The market for Nutella in the United States is apparently growing. Many of my friends eat it by the jar and put it on anything or everything. I am not one of those people; however, when I was living in Rome, Nutella was definitely a staple in my diet.

This beautiful truck graced Temple’s campus from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m on Wednesday, October 10th, as part of its tour of Philadelphia.

In addition to the truck, which offered free samples of toast with Nutella, the company sent people to stand on the sidewalk and give away free samples, stickers, and informational sheets.

As I was eating lunch (Nutella samples) with some of my friends later in the afternoon, one girl asked why people were giving away samples. “Promotions!” said another friend, an anthropology major, before I could even open my mouth.

People understand the idea of promotions. In this case, samples are quick to grab people’s attention, and at the same time, the Nutella brand ambassadors were creating awareness and shaping the perception of Nutella. The brand ambassadors were friendly and eager to give away as much Nutella as possible.

This reminds me of something we often talk about in one of my public relations classes: two-way communication. For a company to communicate well with the public, both sides need to feel like they are winning. “What’s In It For Me?” is one of the first questions people ask when a company is promoting an idea or product, and as a PR practitioner, I have to provide a compelling case.

College students love free stuff, especially food. Companies love to promote their products in a positive way. The Nutella Truck on Temple’s Campus provided strong two-way communication through their strategic promotional tour.

Miss the Nutella Truck (or just can’t get enough)? It will be around Philly until Friday- check the schedule from Foobooz!
Want to talk more Nutella? Leave a comment!

PR vs HR

Today I had a job interview. As I have stated in the past, I am a student, so recently my job has been just that: being a student. I still have to pay rent, though, so this morning I found myself in the HR department of one of the local hospitals.

Human Resources, otherwise known as HR, is similar to public relations. I wanted to blog about this because over the summer, one of my aunts suggested I study HR. Apparently, her company’s HR manager makes a lot of money.

At the time, I was not really sure what the difference was between PR and HR. Through my informative PR classes this semester (and by watching way too many episodes of The Office), I have come to a simple conclusion: PR is external; HR is internal.

For example, on The Office, HR representative Toby Flenderson deals with all the drama of cubicle life. People complain about personal problems, and often Toby has to confront employees on issues like sexual harassment in the workplace.

Public relations practitioners, on the other hand, are concerned with external affairs, as well as traditional media, social media, and other things I mentioned in my last post. PR people are motivated and love to do many things at once. HR, on the other hand, can end up like Toby from The Office… and boss Michael Scott has quite a lot to say about that (hint: he hates Toby and everything to do with HR).

Regardless of whether or not I get the job I interviewed for today, I was glad to be able to see an HR office. It confirmed my own beliefs: in my slightly-biased opinion, PR just seems much more fun, interactive, and exciting.

What do you think about PR and HR? Do you still have more questions? Do you like Toby? Leave me a comment!