Lessons in PR: Saying ‘No’ to Winter Break Doldrums

The New Year starts tomorrow. My New Year’s resolution? Not to waste the time I have right now.

As a PR student, I’ve learned that it is important to take advantage of down time. So, this winter break, I’m going to do just that by acquiring skills that will help me market myself as a young PR professional. Listed below are my top four goals this winter break that I hope will help me in preparing for my career. Hopefully, these goals can inspire you, too!

Winter break can be more than just hanging out in the snow. Take the time to improve your skills in PR. – Photo Credit: The Hope Scholarship blog

1)      Learn Adobe Creative Suite 6

Before the past semester, I hardly knew what InDesign was. I definitely did not know much about the other Adobe programs that exist. Thank God for college. After completing the “News Editing for Public Relations” course, I have gained a lot of insight and a huge admiration for quality design work. We dabbled with InDesign and Illustrator in class but I know that my experience merely scratches the surface of things that can be done with CS6. To accomplish this, I’m going to be utilizing these cool videos by designer Terry White on how to explore CS6 as a beginner.

2)      Perfect my online portfolio

As a PR kid, I have observed how important professional online portfolios are. Having a good, professional online presence makes a huge difference today. So, I decided to really work on mine over winter break. Even though it would be easier to create one through WordPress (I mean I have my blog here), I decided to go with Weebly. Weebly allows HTML coding freedoms that WordPress does not allow, which brings me to my next goal… Continue reading

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Lessons in PR: Learning from Disaster, 9/11

9/11.

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Communication served as a vital means of restoration during 9/11 – from the press, from businesses, from people and from PR practitioners. – Photo Credit: Imani Lewis at the Newseum

For any person in America, these numbers convey the horrific events of that day in 2001. This weekend, I  visited the Newseum’s 9/11 Gallery and experienced some flashback moments of my own. Despite feeling sad, I left inspired. The press showed heroic dedication to document what happened that day. History is grateful for them.

 After visiting the exhibit, I was curious to know about similar actions of PR practitioners during 9/11 and how crisis communication played a part in the recovery process. After a bit of research, I found an article by the Harvard Business Review, “Crisis Communication: Lessons from 9/11” discussing the key means of crisis communication during 9/11 that were critical to connecting with employees and reconstructing business life. The author Paul Argenti listed several steps in successful crisis communication of which I have the three following takeaways. Continue reading

Music Find: James Blake

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James Blake performed at the local venue 9:30club in downtown DC.

Have you ever heard a voice so beautiful that it provokes you to make rash life decisions?

I haven’t. But if I ever were, I wouldn’t be surprised if the voice belonged to recent Mercury prize winning artist, James Blake.

Blake, friend and collaborator with popular music artist Chance the Rapper, creates rich harmonies coupled with electronic sound, a really enjoyable experience (at least to my ears). Plus, the almost unearthly tone of his voice is consistent throughout his recordings and live performances. With such an innovative music style, Blake’s fan base ranges from Dubstep fans to pop fans to soul/blues fans.  I thought that his album “Overgrown” is a significant contender for award recognition this year.

To experience a bit of Blake’s musical wonderfulness, check out his popular single “Retrograde” shared below.

Lessons in PR EXCLUSIVE: Ethics as Culture, Grunig Lecture at Maryland

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My friends and I learned valuable lessons by chatting with PR professionals at the Sixth Annual Grunig Lecture. Photo credit: Imani Lewis via Photogrid

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Sixth Annual Grunig Lecture held at the University of Maryland. As a student, it was a privilege to interact with the top representatives of the public relations industry. It opened my eyes to the different areas I could explore within public relations. In addition to having great discussions with PR professionals, I and 350 other attendees listened as CEO of FleishmanHillard Dave Senay spoke on Ethics as Culture, a project the company is currently involved in which focuses on making ethics a priority in public relations. His presentation of the project was exceptional; I want to share three key takeaways that I received from it.

Takeaway #1 – Making ethical decisions is not a “nice to have” but a “must do.”

Senay shared several examples of PR gone wrong when ethics were not considered a priority in the organization’s dealings. He continued to explain the importance of this advice by presenting several examples of PR practitioners and clients suffering grave consequences for not conducting business ethically.

Takeaway #2 –  Good ethics are rooted in character, not training.

There exists an instinctive temptation to attempt to remedy ethical issues in an organization through training and further education. However, according to Senay, ethical behavior is rooted in character, a passion for being a respectable person to others. Continue reading

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Lessons in PR: The Lowdown on Fact-Checking

We live in the digital age where information gets pumped out 24/7.

Always fact check your work to avoid embarrassing mistakes like this one made by ESPN (just so you know that’s Minnesota, not Wisconsin). – Photo Credit by Darren Rovall on WhoSay

Have you ever stopped to think about how much of it is true?

This week in class, I learned about the importance of fact-checking and the best way to fact-check when writing  today.

A key step to fact-checking is knowing what information needs to be fact-checked. A few examples of information to always check are dates, names, historical persons and events, formal titles, and geographic locations! Websites like infoplease.com serve as great resources for checking facts like these.

Another tip to help with fact-checking is to stick with a particular style guide. When I am writing an article, I use a slew of resources to check things out but I always refer to the Associated Press Stylebook for formatting. When information needs to be checked, I do research and then put my research against the AP style format to make sure that my references are correct.

** Update Oct. 2, 2013

Applied

On behalf of my newsletter client, Transfer2Terp, a University of Maryland student organization, I would use resources provided through the university to do research and fact-checking work. I would use the official University of Maryland employee databases to contact individuals who have information about the makeup of the university’s transfer student population.  Regarding the research on individuals, I would check the featured information provided by those individuals and I would also contact them about the accuracy of the writing before the newsletter is published.

**

To help with your own fact-checking, here are some quick and dirty tips from a book called Creative Editing by Dorothy A. Bowles and Diane L. Borden.

  • #7 – Never assume anything!
  • #14 – Always use the tools available to you
  • Test all links, phone numbers in a story after you have typed them in.
  • #32 – Always go back and read the full sentence if you’ve changed a word or two in the copy.
  • #34 – In doubt? Always call the reporter, wire service or even the source.

With all the advice for fact-checking, a solid bottom line would be the popular saying, “When in doubt, check it out!”

7 Signs You’re a PR Major

PR students stay connected. Photo Courtesy of Apple.com

Every college major or department comes with its own inside jokes and quirks that only its students and faculty understand.  Public Relations is no exception. In fact, PR is probably one of the least talked about majors in college. To take away from the “mystery,” I want to let you all in on the inside story of the PR major’s life.

Here are seven signs that you’re a PR major.

7. Sleep is the one thing that never gets crossed off your to-do list. No rest for the heavy-laden and PR majors, contrary to popular belief, are.

6. When lstening to students form other majors talk about they’re lives , you struggle to reesist kriticizing there grammer. Brownie points to anyone that identifies all the grammatical errors in this sentence. Double points for proper editing marks.

5. You understand how a 500-word news story can take just as long to write as a 1500-word essay. First, you write then you edit. Then you write again and edit. Then you send it off to the editor who edits it and gives it back to you to write … again. See a pattern forming?

4. You’re so literate in SEO that you can find info on anybody. Literally. See that hot TA in the English class? Got his email, LinkedIn and Facebook in less than five minutes with some constructive “Google” searching (don’t pretend like you don’t do this — fact checking at its finest).

3. You get the “It’s not what you know, but who you know” lecture at least 20 times in a given semester.  Friendliness and gratitude go a long way when making professional connections (those thank you notes make a difference!).

2. Your professors reprimand you for NOT using social media in class. “Twitter for Good,” anyone?

Finally…

1. You start blogging solely for the purposes of building up your online presence. I’m just kidding with this one, but honestly, if I wasn’t a PR major, I wouldn’t be blogging. I am so grateful that it inspired me to start.

Did I leave anything out? Let me know what you would put on a list of  the life of a PR major in the comments below.

Thanks!

– Imani