Category Archives: Reputation

Working Girl’s Year One

Year One

It came rather quickly, I’ll admit. In fact, it wasn’t until this last weekend that I realized that I moved to San Francisco 1 year ago on July 4th and started my job 1 year ago today, July 7th. To think of where I was then, quaking in my new heels, ready to burst with questions and anticipation, head equally full of knowledge meant to prepare me for adulthood, never expecting the road that I’ve traveled to get to NOW.

I adjusted at first — and this could have been shock, at the time — rather easily. Emotionally tackling the sometimes-turbulent road from easing in, yet hitting the ground running, then phasing to swallowing pride and comfort for the challenge of taking criticism, learning to work hard, sleep less and take it all in stride. The last few months have seen the much more enjoyable transition of becoming a team player, (more detail-aware — I’m making progress, people) being confident that a job well done means client satisfaction and not personal gain, and realizing that loving my job makes me luckier than most.

That said, I have sorely neglected this blog, which turned out to be a vehicle for employment for me, and I’d like to take this post on this momentous day to make some resolutions for the new year as a “LaunchSquadder” and an employed person.

For this blog I resolve to:

  1. Post 1-2 times a week
  2. Write well
  3. Discuss current media issues
  4. Discuss more challenges for the (intended) benefit of those who come after me
  5. Write response posts
  6. Link more relevantly
  7. Present clear and active thinking about my work, my life, and my goals
  8. I will listen more and better

As an employed person I resolve to:

  1. Do more phone pitching
  2. Read more literature on the train
  3. Post on the Exclamation blog more
  4. Make fewer typos
  5. Continue to be an early-adopter of new technology as it remains a fantastic way to stay engaged in the space
  6. Take on more writing-intensive projects
  7. Understand the give-and-take with journalists and pursue more mutually-beneficial relationships
  8. Recognize my responsibility to myself to commit to more responsibility, initiative and leadership on my teams.
  9. Every day, be thankful for my current employment and the daily opportunities presented to learn and be taught.
  10. Every day, do better work than I did the day before.

The nice thing here is that I generally believe that this framework will not only make me a better employee and PR professional, but also a better and more committed person to not only my work, but my future and the opportunities it probably bring. Hopefully.

Anyone else closing in on a year and having some thoughts about it? Let me know what you guys are thinking… Maybe I’m the only one who’s seeing this as some existential milestone, but I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Also — a quick “Congrats!” to my coworker, Sara Schulte who also started last year on 7/7 at LaunchSquad. 🙂

Don’t mess with my SEO – Battles with middle schoolers

I found another Megan Soto — IN OREGON.

#8 In the results for the Google search:

picture-32She does the long jump for Cascade Middle School’s track team.

picture-22What are the odds?! I mean — seriously.

Cinematic Savvy: Cool Hand Luke

Thought I’d get your attention with Mr. Paul Newman.

“What we got here is a failure to communicate.”

This observation from the road crew captain in the film brings to mind several instances where this very truth has caused havoc in my personal and professional (or pre-professional) life. Whether it’s laziness, disdain or sheer ignorance that’s ruptured the flow of healthy verbal relations, it always means another failure is in store.

Relationships – duh. Oprah and a host of highly-qualified psychological professionals say we need communication for our relationships and if it isn’t there, relationships sink.

But in the professional environment, maybe you don’t get emotionally wounded, but lack of communication means your team, and ultimately your client, takes it right in the gut.

I’ve experienced this on both sides. There was an instructor who failed to clearly communicate expectations, due dates and functions of each task assigned and remained unapproachable. This led to a lot of struggling and eventual dissent from the class members who left the class confused about what was assigned, much of it very important to our careers. The one lesson I’ve taken from this example is that you can’t always trust the people you work under to lay it all out for you. I guess.

On the other hand, in leaving town on a planned trip one week, I left my team high and dry without knowing it and accidentally skipped out on a huge deadline because we failed to properly communicate under the urgent circumstances. Luckily, the client was still provided with information they needed in a timely fashion and no bridges were burned.

Now, it would be easy for me to say: this is what happens when there is a failure to communicate. But it can get much worse. When communication is sacrificed, other things are tossed out too: trust of team members and clients, reputation among colleagues and networks and most importantly, the ability to hold yourself to a standard of having decent respect for those you work with and the things you work for. These are big losses.

I hope my examples illustrated that it isn’t always a lack of timely or dependable communication that’s the problem- when I’d gone out of town, my team had attempted to reach me by e-mail rather than phone – but sometimes it’s the quality of what’s communicated that causes a problem. Sincerity, consideration, and professionalism are always appreciated.

Honesty will also score high.

The Cinematic Savvy series is designed to explore themes and ideas from certain films. Inspiration can be drawn from characters, their quotes, their circumstances, historical approaches depicted – it’s my blog, I’ll take it where I get it. I love film and I love PR. Let’s see how they influence me.

*Image courtesy of /www.johnmariani.com

Cinematic Savvy: True Grit

The Cinematic Savvy series is designed to explore themes and ideas from certain films. Inspiration can be drawn from characters, their quotes, their circumstances, historical approaches depicted – it’s my blog, I’ll take it where I get it. I love film and I love PR. Let’s see how they influence me.

True Grit in blogging/social media, to be specific. Looking through some of my posts, I’ve noticed a distinct timidity. This reluctance to firmly and boldly speak my mind results from a decided lack of professional experience and affirmation. Until I go through the symbolic ritual of graduating and land myself a job, much of my opinions seem speculative.

The John Wayne flick that inspired this post depicts a girl out to avenge her father’s death who hires “a man with grit.”

He’s wise to the ways of the world and has got toughened determination that can only come with time and experience. I do think, though, that there is something to be said for being young and full of gumption.

At some point I hope to be assigned to an account because I’ve shown grit and determination in my work and have proved that I weather challenging situations. I suppose that time is now. As a recent recruitment to a PR agency, I can honestly say I was hired because of my grit. That’s right, I said it.

I’m not a pro, but these are some things that worked for me:

Keep blogging: No one’s born a good blogger. You become one by thoroughly researching your topics and reading other people’s blogs. But just because no one leaves comments doesn’t mean no one’s reading. So keep going.

Use your social media resources: I use Twitter and Facebook to announce new blog posts. That has served me well. But I’m also very active with them. I average about 5 “Tweets” a day ranging from what I actually AM doing at the moment to bringing up relevant and interesting articles, blog posts and other content.

Keep Commenting: This is so crucial in “joining the conversation” people may or may not reply to or even read every posted comment, but if you’re doing your research and posting intelligent comments, you’ll get their attention.

Be determined and deliberate: In both your research on new social media as well as your involvement.

Recover and learn from mistakes: I’ve made some pretty stupid Twitter mistakes (ie. linking to a blog post as though it was this scandalous news but it was actually an April Fool’s joke) but had to keep making posts and am now much more careful.

Be bold: Asking questions isn’t always enough. Making educated assertions is what gets you “in” to the conversation.

Stick it out: It’ll pay off in one way or another. The things you learn and the connections you make in Web 2.0 are of use now and in the future.

If it’s True Grit you want, here are some guidelines from a seasoned amateur.

*Image courtesy of http://www.needlenose.com/

It’s Not Easy Being Green

This is my last post that counts as an assignment for the class in which this blog was assigned. So in honor of St. Patty’s, I’d like to say, it’s not easy being green (as in inexperienced not eco-friendly).

This term, more than anything else for me has been: “What’s public relations all about?” And more than ever before, I’ve been asked to prove that I can answer that question. I have one instructor who insists that at its very fundamentals, PR is about influencing people. I have another instructor who stressed how much we needed to make messages that were going to “stick”.

So here are some things I learned this term to make me less green and more savvy:

1. In a trade publication, if you don’t know the audience, check the media kit.

2. Everything you write needs to matter to someone.

3. Accountability is important and it’s good to let a client know in a plan how you’re going to be accountable to them

4. Never list someone as a reference on a resume or CV until they know they are being listed.

5. In order to truely “join the conversation” you must be actively listening.

6. Shareholders don’t always care about the CSR.

7. Do not data dump in presentations.

8. Tripple Bottom-line: People + Community + Profit<– According to mis-read lecture notes – it’s actually People, Planet, Profit (Thanks, Emily).

9. Transparency is key.

10. In a media-advisory, make the photo-op irresistible to the press.

11. In a crisis, address concerns first.

12. Nail down AP style.

13. Listen and respond.

Thanks to all the PR pros that have indulged in my questions and concerns this term via Twitter and e-mail. I hope we’ll have an opportunity to continue the conversation.

*Image courtesy of http://www.smart-kit.com/

Chew Him Up, Spitzer Out: Lessons On Spin From A Pro

What a relief this Eliot Spitzer scandal is! A nice break for journalists trying to peddle the tired story of the growing Clinton-Obama-McCain “we’re good friends, but don’t respect each other’s policies”-triangle. A nice break for readers trying to stay interested in it. Oh! And the blogging opportunities! I can just see a young Christian Bale as a “Newsie” celebrating this latest golden headline and vending his “papes” with renewed vigor. It’s perfect! Here is the champion of decency, steadfastly intolerant of the corrupt and duplicitous among elected public servants, slain by his own silver bullet. Kind of. According Kimberley A. Strassel of The Wall Street Journal, the press are still trying to revive him.

As if this story wasn’t interesting enough, many people are starting to question why he thought he’d get away with it. In a scathing recent article, Strassel asserts that the press acted more like pre-teen NSync groupies when they covered him than like a balanced commentating voice: The unrelenting loyalty of the press is why he thought he could get away with it.

From the article: ‘”You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don’t get caught,” said Mr. Spitzer two years ago. He never did get caught, because most reporters were his accomplices.”

“[Gov. Spitzer] played the media like a Stradivarius.” Ouch! She then goes on to cite several cases in which the media not only turned a blind-eye to Spitzer’s indiscretions, but they also praised him for his commitment to the “people’s causes”.

This brings up an interesting point. Is it OK for the press corps to take sides on political movements and candidates? For example: The New York Times endorsing candidates. Is it instances like this that solidify the argument of an opinion-free press? Strassel asserts that one of the most important jobs of the press is to be political watch-dogs. If this is true and the circumstances in the article also true, then the press failed miserably.

Not that it was their fault entirely, according to Strassel. What we have here, is a master of spin. Spitzer knew what the media wanted and he gave it to them. He knew what would grab their attention and he worked it whether it was crusading for causes or feeding journalist friends with insider information.

Are you taking notes all you aspiring celebrity publicists?

…I honestly don’t have much else to say about this. Strassel has delivered the story beautifully and most importantly, thoroughly. All I can do is sit here with my friend Dan and shake my head at my recent discovery of the frailty and vulnerability of the modern press corps, professionals I admire and respect, people who have set standards and examples of excellence that I am instructed, daily, to emulate. What am I, a journalism major, what’s more, a PR major who has to constantly reconcile the needs of a client with social ethics, to take from this?
All I’ve left to conclude is: Britney Spears, if you want to get the media back on your side, call Eliot Sptizer. He’ll probably be looking for a job soon.

This seems brazen. Even before I publish it, I’m nervous to do so. What do I, a student, know about the ways of the world other than what I’ve been told? My idealism hasn’t been truly put to the test. “Oh yeah, Soto? Let’s see if you can find a job when you come down from that soapbox!” I suppose this post is just me needing to know that the pursuit of ethical practices and social responsibility is worth it.

*Image courtesy of http://www.gawker.com

Is It A “She-Thang”?

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, er – yesterday, I am compelled to devote this post to my sex. To my delight, the New York Times article Boldface in Cyberspace: It’s a Woman’s Domain delved into a new site called “Wowowow: The Women on the Web” which features blogs and articles written by professional women. Most of them have backgrounds in media like Leslie Stahl, and others are groundbreaking entertainers like Candice Bergen and Whoopi Goldberg – all of them brilliant contributors to our intellectual culture. It isn’t enough to say that these women and many of their colleagues stimulated me and my rabid educational and vocational pursuits. They motivate me daily.

It is with this mindset that I explore a new question: Is PR a women’s industry?

Now, first, as a disclaimer, I’d like to point out that I’m a student blogger and my topics are mere questions that I face and answers that I find. These might be brazen claims, but they are prompted by the fact that my internship and PR classes are female-dominated and this leads me to question whether that is the nature of the industry.

Sorry, guys. It is not my intention to ostracize. I also don’t wish to ostracize my own sex with the assertions I’m about to make based on clichés. I, rather, wish to question why I feel so comfy in PR. If we consider the stereotypical female persona, the one so often caricatured in sitcoms and their accessory traits – a persona with which I often identify- and compare it to PR, are they are perfect fit?

1 . PR is about communcation: We handle situations by talking. Not only that but we learn methods of talking that help us shape our message so that people understand us. We even adopt cadences to our voices to give us credibility and authority as we make our arguments and appeals. We tailor our language to each audience. Oprah says this is healthy so we do it.

2. PR is about relationships: My life is relationships, family, friends, boyfriends, teachers, bosses. I think about relationships, I talk about relationships. I’m good at relationships. Not only that, I manage my relationships. What’s more, I look for new ways to be better at managing my relationships. And if you’ve ever watched Sex and the City, this is in every episode.

3. PR is sometimes about SPIN: There are times when some publicists are forced to talk out of their badonkadonk in order to manage a client’s reputation. Some might call it being manipulative. I call it good celebrity PR.

4. There’s a soothing nature to PR: In a time of crisis, our client’s causes become our own and we form a Florence Nightingale attachment. It’s a natural, and, dare I say, nurturing response.

5. PR is SEXY: Sometimes it’s about talking the talk and walking the walk. It’s about perception and attraction. It’s about flashy marketing stunts and reputation make-overs.

6. Lastly, PR plays games and likes gossip: PR people play word games and mind games. And now, more than ever, we play these games to create buzz or gossip about our clients and their work. We love it when things go viral. We go crazy when everyone’s talking about it. It makes us want to talk about it more so that we can generate more buzz and have a final authority on the situation: “Actually, I heard on TMZ that this is Lindsay’s fifth time in rehab, not fourth.”

Obviously, this list is not representative of every woman and these are very much some things in which both men and women participate. It does, however, bring some insight about why I, for one, enjoy PR. It speaks my language. It uses my tactics. It mimics my voice. It demands my kind of communication. It calls to me.

*Image courtesy of http://bothhands.files.wordpress.com 

Mischief Managed: Recovering From PR Blunders

In my spare time, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre and at one point in the lengthy conversations between Mr. Rochester and Jane, I felt very convicted by something he said to her in an argument: “You are afraid – Your self-love dreads blunder.”

Here is something to which I can relate. I don’t know if it’s self-love that drives me or makes me hesitate, but I do think it is, to some extent, a fear of mistakes or messing up. I’m a cautious and slow mover. I fear that my chance and risk-taking won’t pan out to success. My question is, when you mess up, how do you recover? This isn’t crisis management but, to reference to Harry Potter, “mischief management”.

In a recent article by Keith Ferrazzi, Founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a strategic consulting and professional development firm, he gives advice on how to deal with both personal and professional mistakes and blunders.

1. Get some perspective: This makes sense to me. In the grand scheme of things, assess how much does this really matter?

2. Assess and forgive yourself: In the grand scheme of YOU (and/or your company), how much does this mistake represent?

3. Come clean: Trust comes from full disclosure and free-flowing information. This goes for all relationships, personal and professional. At least in my experience.

4. Get back on the polo horse: I don’t really get why he stipulated that it was a polo horse, but I’ll take it. Move on by moving on. Prove to everyone that this mistake doesn’t define you or your work.

This is very good advice and coupled with what I’m learning in college, it should help in at least assessing and projecting recovery tactics for PR blunders and mistakes. In my PR classes, my instructors have presented the “wrong” ways to do things and even given us some examples of easily avoidable blunders and then how they were mishandled. The media is full of such situations. I’ve even blogged about them (See “Let’s Rethink This”).

For example, let’s look at former aide to Barack Obama, Samantha Power and how her off-hand and insulting remarks toward Hilary Clinton cost her a comfortable advising position in Obama’s campaign when Hilary didn’t accept her apology. What’s worse is that she’s a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Pulitzer prize-winning author. Apprently, in an interview with The Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper, she called Senator Clinton “a monster” in an off-the-record comment which the paper ended up publishing.

How was this mischief managed? She quit. She also went to the press.

According to the Irish television network RTE, Power told a reporter, when asked if she regretted her comments, “Of course I regret them, I can’t even believe they came out of my mouth.” She went on, [Sentator Clinton] is also incredibly warm, funny. I’ve spent time with her. I think that I just had a very weak moment in seeing some of the tactics, it seems, that were getting employed.”

This is all well and good, but let’s see how this fares in Keith Ferrazzi’s 4-step formula.

Did she:

1. Get some perspective? Yes – and she decided that this blunder would cost the Obama campaign more than her pride was worth. In the grand scheme of things, it mattered.
2. Assess and forgive herself? Sure. Or at least she’s getting there. Her press follow-up showed her remorse and regret over the situation and that she was looking to move forward.

3. Come clean? Well yes, the initial incriminating interview actually did that for her, and her above-mentioned press follow-up allowed her to own up to her mistake and apologize for it.

4. Get back on the polo horse? Well I don’t know. In an interview with the Boston Globe, she said that she resigned from her aide position to remove all of the distractions that her comments had brought on the campaign. That probably includes staying out of the public eye now that she’s had a chance to put an apology out through the press. I can’t find anything other than her RTE interview. If you can, please let me know via comment.

All things considered, I think Samantha Power handled it as well as anyone could. And now that I have some idea of how to handle mistakes, I hope to be inspired to drive my decision-making with my aspirations and goals rather than let it be bridled by my fears of screwing up. It seems to me that mistakes and the managing of them are essential experiences and that they can only benefit my understanding of PR and add to my ease as a future practitioner.

I can only hope Samantha Power eventually sees it that way if she doesn’t already.

*Image courtesy of PrAsanGaM via Flickr.

Romancing The Industry

I’ve never been the type to cry when pulled over by a police officer to get out of a ticket. I’d rather argue my way out of it and make the officer see my side of the situation. But I generally tend to approach situations with an emotional mindset strictly as a personality trait. It’s the way I’m wired. This doesn’t mean that each school project or friendship problem becomes a soap opera, but rather that I evaluate coping methods and work strategies in terms of how I’ll feel about it during and afterwards. Will I be proud of my work, will it stress me out and how will it affect my behavior and relationships with those in my life?

After reading David Armano’s blog disecting “The Novelty Curve” – a chart showing the stages of reactions to novelty, I had to wonder if my sensative approaches could breed success or foster fickleness in my profession. Is it better to tackle the industry with logic and reason or can I get by with ambition and emotion driving my decisions and actions? Will each project and client become a melodrama starting with infatuation and ending in boredom and intrapersonal friction?

The more I learn about public relations the more I see that “feelers” like me aren’t only welcome in the industry but necessary for success within it. Public relations revolves around the human experience and communication and networking. With every relationship built and every client gained, I must approach each opportunity with a fervor for human connection and interaction.

The danger that comes with emotion is that the business side of the industry is threatened by approaches that don’t hail from logic and reason. Public relations has so much to do with business to business relationships and then there’s that pesky saying “it’s not personal, it’s business”. Is there room for “feelers” in business-to-business PR ? In one of my PR classes, we’ve been discussing investor relations, and I’ve got to wonder, could I thrive in that field? Do they need what I’ve got to offer?

In the end, I can only hope that the logical tactics and strategies I’ve been taught and have yet to learn will be enhanced by my naturally emotional approaches and ultimately be useful in my future field. I don’t want a love affair with the idustry, I want a lasting, healthy, mutually-beneficial relationship based around communication, creativity, innovation and fidelity. Is that too much to ask?

*Image courtesy of http://www.enidlawsongallery.co.uk

Myspace Is Bald-Faced

The first time I was ever hit on via Myspace message by a guy who was clearly not my age and probably married, was very much like the day I found out there was a person inside the Chuck-E-Cheese costume. Real creepy. It seemed to break a spell since I was a relatively new social media user. I had a live-journal in high-school and was pretty AIM-literate. I was not prepared to find out, however, that people would or even could use the site for false if not predatory means.

This was also around the time that many of my girlfriends were using Photoshop to edit their pictures and they looked good. Suddenly we could be models and random boys from exciting places like Santa Cruz were writing me Myspace messages saying “U look like Eva Longoria. Ur hawt.” And though I knew nothing about these boys besides their bad spelling, I was still quite flattered and definitely hooked on the digital make-overs.

Now that this little demon of my dark past is exposed, I have to say I was quite embarrassed and guilt-ridden when I was listening to NPR’s Bryant Park Project podcast and an interview with Jeff Hancock, associate professor at Cornell University, who has come up with a “method” or at least some hints on how to tell if someone is lying to you in their social media profiles, resumes and other online places where personal info is logged.

According to Hancock in an interview with the Cornell Chronicle, “Most of the work on deception has focused on nonverbal forms of deception. The thinking has been that you can control your speech but you can’t control your nonverbal behavior[body language], and this kind of thinking led to a focus on examining nonverbal cues associated with lying, which is what the polygraph tests.”

Since you generally can’t observe the body language of someone who wrote a blog, Hancock has some theories about how to tell if someone’s lying, one of them being that online-liars tend to take the personal pronoun out of their speech. For example, in a profile sentence, someone would say “Interned in New York” instead of “I interned in New York.” Another way to spot a liar is that they also tend to, according to Hancock, explain and, really, just type a lot in an effort to prove their statement even if proof is not requested.

Much of the research and data collected were from dating sites where singles have something to lose and it is that fear that drives them to lie. The truth could mean unattractiveness but also ostracism from the dating scene. There’s more to this problem, though than just blemish-hiding, over-exposed Myspace and Facebook pictures. If it’s so easy to lie online, then what’s to stop this pattern from seeping into the business side of the internet.

Apparently, it already has. Let’s remember the Edleman and Wal-Mart blog situation that gave all PR bloggers a black eye when their Working Family’s For Wal-Mart blog was outed as a PR blog. CEO Richard Edelman, said, in a blog statement, that they had failed to be completely transparent.

AH! There we have it. Transparency. What do we risk sacrificing by investing in the internet, the promised land of cheap and easy social media opportunities? Transparency. The only upside about this situation is its reciprocity, which is the exact reason why all of my PR instructors here at the University of Oregon say “be transparent, be honest, have integrity in your work, be TRUTHFUL!” Truthful information can be as available on the internet as false information. So if I lie, chances are, people will find out.

In the career world, I feel like I have more to lose as from internet lies than people on dating sites. My professional reputation is at stake. As a student, it’s even more important for me to be purposeful in what I write and publish as fact because I don’t have a solid resume yet to save me from even minor blunders. Caution is vital because one particularly frightening aspect of this situation is that as PR people participate in social media, we are communicating with a world full of tweaked identities and false demographics. This is a bad thing. And if we, too, partake in the opportunity to hide behind the online anonymity, we are contributing to and validating this audience full of phony and fabricated lives which severely limits the capacity of the messages we craft and put out.

In the online PR world, we must value truth as much as we value promotion and buzz. Until we do, we’ll always be trying to rise above stains on our collective professional reputation left by the mistakes and oversights from our colleagues. To me, that sounds exhausting and I have other things I’d rather be doing.

Image courtesy of http://www.gamerandy.com