By: Faith Ford
TikTok, is a massively popular app that lets users create and share videos up to 60 seconds long. At least that’s the Dictionary.com definition of the content creation app that started to gain social media users’ attention around 2018. So how did TikTok get to where it is today? And what does it mean for the future of social media, especially in the public relations, marketing and advertising industries?
TikTok, described as one of the fastest-growing social media platforms of 2020 – and all time, began as an app that most people had recognized as Musical.y after an acquisition in 2017 by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Due to this merger of brands, the app specialized in dancing clips which led to viral trends of dance-offs, lip syncs, and extensive use of hashtag challenges. The app today has grown into a hotspot for influencer marketing and as a medium for brands to use when sharing their messaging. In just four years, the social media site has reached 150 countries, has 2 billion downloads, and 1 billion active monthly users. All this activity puts TikTok ahead of business favorites like Facebook and Instagram.
While TikTok has shown its tremendous growth and strengths within its use as a marketing and communications hub for businesses, the app has faced crises that have jeopardized usage rates in the business world. The biggest issue facing the platform is privacy.
Concerns about privacy have been under the lens of the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission and were even highlighted in a late summer move toward a possible nationwide ban on the social networking site, and other actions by individual businesses.
In a July NBC news article, reporter Kevin Collier states that, “The bank Wells Fargo told its workers to delete the app. Amazon ramped up the scrutiny of TikTok on Friday after a leaked internal email said company employees needed to remove the app from their phones. Amazon later clarified that no such edict had actually been issued.”
It seems hard to imagine that employee internal conflict with this app would reflect positively on the company, when the company starts to use it for its own purposes, as employees are a primary public to keep in mind.
However, the hesitations to use the app for public external messaging also becomes easier to understand. Why would a business invest in positions to research, analyze and create when there’s a possibility of the app being removed from your consumers?
With regard to these concerns, it seems that TikTok has outgrown its “he who cannot be trusted” description, as more and more businesses join the viral experience.
Considerations for Businesses
Of course, businesses shouldn’t just join in on the site just for the numbers and its popularity. There has to be some reason for their use or else the messaging seems forced, is lost, and won’t reach their intended audience. This is where PR comes in. Remember: “What or how you do something is not as important as the WHY.”
So what does this mean for companies wanting to use TikTok as a social media platform?
Do your research. Know who your audience is and what they are looking for. If you are a Senior Living facility, for example, trying to reach 65-year-olds, TikTok is probably not the place to reach your primary audience.
Be engaging. The whole point of social networking sites is to connect you with people. The ability to engage with your audience will give you a better idea of who they are, what they are looking for, and their personality. The extra effort of responding to comments, “dueting” challenges that have helped your brand, and being conversational with influencers is valuable for your brand on the platform.
Be aware. Look for opportunities that seem organic and authentic for your company. Is there a trend that fits your new launch? Act on it! TikTok trends move quickly, so being aware of the app’s climate is important to being up-to-date and creating new and unique ideas.
Other Emerging Social Sites
TikTok grew – fast. It was important for businesses to be aware of its presence, even if they were choosing not to be as active on the platform as their employees. While there still may be reservations about the site, here are some social media sites that public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals should keep their eyes on:
Social media, including TikTok, can be a powerful tool for businesses wanting to reach their audience. However, if you are considering including it in your communication strategy, don’t forget to do your research, and most importantly, don’t forget to answer the “Why?” if you want to maximize its effectiveness.
By: Ashleigh Horn
Research is the key to all successful public relations strategy. It is the defining factor in how we choose to tell our client’s story and helps us identify how our target audiences will react—long before they are ever exposed to any messaging.
But why is research crucial? How can it single-handedly define the effectiveness of our PR efforts? Isn’t research a little bit…old school?
No! Before I continue any further, I would like to emphasize that research is not old school. Call me a nerd for thinking it’s cool, but you actually need it to be successful in this industry. Here is why:
Beyond identifying an objective, research is the first step in defining what steps should be taken to solve a problem. A need may be increasing brand awareness, avoiding a crisis, or launching a campaign. The list is endless. However, used strategically, research can be conducted to meet needs, elevate your client’s brand and create lasting mutually beneficial relationships.
On the other hand, failure to conduct research may lead to indecision, inaction or financial loss. It may also make identifying key publics and their needs difficult. In many cases, actions taken without sufficient knowledge about who or what they will impact can even lead to tarnishing your brand’s overall image.
One brand whose reputation was tarnished because of its failure to conduct any research was Digorno. In 2014, the frozen pizza brand received major backlash for inappropriately using a trending Twitter hashtag to advertise its product. The company’s Tweet, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza” was ill-received by Twitter users who were disgusted that the company would poke fun at domestic violence to encourage pizza sales.
The company could have avoided the situation altogether by researching the nature of the hashtag before Tweeting. While research may frontload your efforts, it helps prevent mistakes later on. Doing so allows you to preserve your brand and may even save you money.
I will be the first to admit that research is not always sexy. In fact, anyone who has taken University of Central Missouri’s PR 3605: Survey of PR Research & Theory with Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn knows that research can be tedious and seemingly mundane at times. However, it can also be exciting and provide key insights that will make decision making easier down the road.
Research allows us to strategically gauge information about our key publics. It helps us identify possible reactions and outcomes of our efforts and avoid unnecessary costs. It also equips us with the tools to measure the impact of our efforts from the get-go. At the end of the day, it takes out the guesswork and lays a solid foundation from which you can build—without fear of total failure.
You may be thinking, “Gee, that sounds great. However, I have no experience conducting research. I would never know where to begin.”
But you do!
May I ask if you have ever had a friend tell you that they have begun to develop feelings for someone? If you are like me, this small piece of information often triggers Sherlock-Holmes mode. Within the next hour you have scoured up a list of their hobbies, identified their grandmother’s name, and searched through all of the accounts they follow on Instagram.
Does this activity sound familiar? Don’t lie, I know you have done it too.
Curiosity is in our nature and whether we recognize it or not, we conduct research every day. We care about our friend and use research to ensure that the one who has them so smitten is actually right for them.
But where should you start?
Certainly there are methods to help guide how we research. However, there is no set protocol for how it should be conducted, especially in PR as we deal with all things human. I advise formulating one single question and allowing your curiosity to fuel any questions and quests for answers that follow.
You may think research is boring. It’s not! It is a vital element in the daily life of a PR pro. Ask questions, find the answers, then ask more questions that lead you to solid strategy and valuable decision-making.
By: Sebastian Szczurowski
While it seems like social media has been around for a very long time, it has actually only been popular for barely a decade now. With the steady rise of social media over the past few years many companies have been able to strengthen their position in the marketplace by using it to effectively promote their brands and products.
One of the main things that social media allows companies to do is gain faster and more widespread coverage to thousands or even millions of individuals in under the span of a few minutes. This is something that was unimaginable 15 or 20 years ago. The rise of the internet has allowed this rapid increase in media and news coverage outlets across the globe, and has enabled social media to become a powerful tool when it comes to increasing a brand’s visibility within its target market. When a company is able to establish a strong online presence it will become more visible to the public by implementing a communication strategy that helps to promote the company and gain more followers on social media in the long run.
Another well-known advantage that social media has had on the public relations industry is increased communication. Social media allows everyday people to post their thoughts about all sorts of topics with just a click of a button on their phone, laptop, or tablet. These communication channels can also be used to develop relationships with your brand’s consumers and help PR professionals create relevant content that will resonate with their target audiences.
Nowadays, most people have some form of social media account or maybe even have multiple accounts. Today’s social media platforms are designed to provide easy integration for all of their users which allows people of all ages and backgrounds to have access to some form of social media. This has made it much easier for PR professionals to increase awareness of their client’s business and the products and services that are offered.
Social media has allowed many companies worldwide to promote their brands and develop a sense of relevancy with their consumers. Social media allows PR practitioners to track results in real-time and learn more about the people who are interacting with their clients online and how often those interactions are occurring.
While social media is still in its early stages, its value in promoting client branding and as a means for conducting research, are rapidly demonstrating its importance as a strategic public relations tool that is only gaining momentum.
By : Emily Schaper
When it comes to opening new doors and opportunities, networking should be a top priority. It’s not just about trading information, but establishing long-term relationships with mutual benefits. Networking, however, may not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. People may find it time-consuming, awkward, or out of their comfort zone. This can be understandable if you already have a lot on your plate and the last thing you want to do is make small talk with strangers. Although, if you don’t take the time to prioritize networking throughout your career, you may miss out on some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Now, you may be wondering how to become an effective networker. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be expanding your professional network in no time!
Find Your Networking Style
Now, you may be wondering how to become an effective networker. First, you need to determine what style works best for you. If you are energized by being around people, for example, you could network at a large social gathering instead of just one-on-one. Be aware, however, Covid-19 may alter these plans. Organizations are utilizing Zoom, so if you happen to enjoy engaging with others online, this could potentially help a lot.
Network Outside the Box
Second, don’t be afraid to network outside the box. Think of events and organizations to attend that you otherwise wouldn’t consider. Sometimes, being able to volunteer around people of similar interests is enough to advance your career. It’ll show you really value helping others and have a passion to learn new skills/abilities.
Do Your Research
Don’t forget to do your research before you connect with someone. It’ll help the conversation flow better if there’s a base understanding of their interests, education, work history, and more. Plus, it’ll show you genuinely care and respect the other person. They’ll remember that about you later on.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Next, always follow up. The time you invest in speaking with someone won’t benefit your personal and professional development if you fail to follow up afterward. This can easily be done by utilizing social media platforms, such as LinkedIn. Just sending short, personalized messages helps differentiate you from other individuals. According to Deena Baikowitz, chief networking officer and co-founder of Fireball Network, “The worst networking mistake you can make is not trying at all.”
Pass It On
Last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to pass it on. If you have the opportunity to help someone who has taken time to reach out to you, act upon it. Your referral has a lot of power and can help them land a job. You were once in their shoes and what goes around comes around.
Utilizing these tips will set you apart from others in the long run. Remember, if you’re not stepping out of your comfort zone, then you’re not growing. Now’s the time to reach out and stay connected.
By Meredith Trapper
As graduation quickly approaches, I cannot help but reflect on my time here at UCM and the defining moments that brought me to where I am today. Everyone has a reason for why they picked the degree they did, but for me, there were many reasons and many people.
I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I came to UCM in 2015. However, I quickly realized I had absolutely no clue. I somehow found myself sitting in class thinking about the things that I enjoy the most in life: interacting with people, writing, giving presentations, problem solving, and having not one day be alike. I love always being on the move and challenging myself in every opportunity. Knowing that, I wound up sitting in Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn’s office trying to understand what on Earth this degree called Public Relations was all about. Little did I know, that Public Relations is all of those things I loved and so much more.
Thank you, Dr. Hansen-Horn, for always taking time to talk through things with me. I will forever be grateful for the life advice you give and for challenging me to do things I never thought myself capable.
From that conversation on, I was sold. Not only do I love everything about the degree I am pursuing, but I love the people within the program. I have never related better to a group of people than I do with those in my program. Prior to starting the program, all my friends were in my sorority, and I never really tried to make friends within my classes. However, that quickly changed as I became more involved in Public Relations.
Thank you Kylee Julian for being the friend I never knew I needed and for pushing me out of my comfort zone to opportunities like Innovative Public Relations (IPR) and studying abroad in Australia with the PR program. You are a true life-long friend that I know will continue to push me out of my comfort zone for many years to come.
Innovative Public Relations has been one of my favorite memories while in college. Not only did I receive real-life experience, but I made friends and memories along the way that I will hold with me forever. My teams and I have accomplished work I can be proud to show off and did so in a fun and exciting way.
Thank you Blake Hedberg for turning me into that nerd who is truly excited to go to a class. You have been a great mentor and someone I respect immensely.
Lastly, thank you to Dr. Horn, Dr. Hansen-Horn, Professor Heapes, and Professor Mullins for not only pushing me to be the best version of myself, but for going above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you for always making time to help with classes, internships, jobs, and so much more. I am so fortunate to have professors that not only want you to succeed in their class, but want to set you up for success in the future. You all make me proud to be graduating from UCM’s PR program, and I know many others in my shoes feel the same way.
By Maddison Armbruster
If you’re anything like me, I felt incredibly lost freshman year. I had no idea what I wanted to major in or what I wanted to do with my life. After some time, I selected public relations as my major and began to find a path post-graduation. However, there are a few more things I’ve learned during my time at UCM I couldn’t resist sharing. Follow these tips and you too can benefit!
Attend class and ask questions and actively listen to lecture and discussion. Attend events that are going on around campus. It’s a part of putting yourself out there and meeting new people. There are plenty of opportunities to learn something new outside of the classroom or participate in a new, fun experience.
It is so beneficial to take the time to introduce yourself to your fellow classmates and professors. It allows you to make connections and practice your networking skills. It’s also the start of creating and building relationships with those around you in your major. This is crucial when the time comes to search for your first job after graduation. These individuals can help guide you to the right location. It cannot hurt to connect to future colleagues early.
Take advantage of the resources that are available to you. There are so many different offices on campus that you can benefit from. Become a better writer through the Writing Center or take a break at The Mule Post in between classes. Everything from meeting with your advisor to heading over to the Career Services Center to make sure you are interview ready, this campus can help prepare you for life after college.
Remember college is not all about school. It’s also a great time to try out different clubs and organizations on campus, regardless if they pertain to your major or not. This is a great way to give yourself a mental break and remind yourself to have fun on campus. You can expand your network, meet new friends, and gain invaluable experience!
Opportunities are everywhere and can benefit you in a number of ways. Make the most of your time on campus by getting involved and stepping out of your comfort zone!
By Amanda Walls
From someone who is weeks away from college graduation and hunting for a full-time job, trust me, finding a position you are happy with is difficult! Landing that position is even more challenging. Here are some tips on how to create a resume that stands above the rest.
Short, but sweet.
A general rule for college graduates, keep the resume one page only! Sure you have work experience, but it is unlikely that the person who is hiring for the entry-level position in which you are applying wants to read a book about your work experience. In fact, the average time a recruiter spends looking at a resume to decide if it is relevant is 10 seconds. Keep it brief, but keep it relevant. A lengthy, wordy resume is much more likely to get tossed aside than a resume that is well organized and to the point.
Cater to each position.
No two resumes that you send out for job applications should be the same. Your resume should be edited so that your work experience directly relates to the job you are seeking. Better yet, use some key terms that the job description uses, the person reading your resume will notice! It is also important to put the most relevant job experience first. If a professional glances at your resume, the first things they should see are your name, and your most relevant experience. That way, they immediately know this applicant has the experience they are looking for.
Add some personality!
Reading the same document over and over is tedious. That is basically how hiring committees feel when they are exposed to several generic resumes. It is important to include some personality, without overdoing it. Add a pop of color, a unique layout or an attention grabbing introduction to set your resume apart from the others. Make certain your resume is still clean and professional, but show the employer how you stand out! This will help the employer have some sort of memorable takeaway from your resume.
Go beyond the resume.
If you are in any industry where you create some type of content, it is obvious that just simply writing about it isn’t enough. Visuals are important, so consider creating an online portfolio. Your portfolio should follow the general theme of your resume, while showing off all of your created content. Dropping a link to your portfolio on your resume is an easy way to show the employer that you are organized and mean business!
Ready to make a show-stopping resume? Follow this link for some great guidelines and ideas to get you started https://zety.com/blog/public-relations-resume-example
By Hannah Treat
Working on campus is a typical job opportunity for most college students, whatever university they might be at, but you don’t always get to work in an area that is dedicated to your major. Personally, I have worked in housing and the music department. Although they are both great job opportunities, they are not public relations focused. Entering my senior year, I started a new job position at the Elliott Student Union at the information desk and their promotions team. Finally a job that caters to my major!
Typically when I tell people I work in two different areas for the Elliott Student Union (ESU) they look at me like I’m crazy, and they may be right. But I’ve also found that they pair together really well. Working on the promotions team is where I perform the most public relations work. I get to help take and create social media content, whether that be a photo, flyer or a graphic. One of my favorite projects was getting to create all the physical and digital content for a new project about coffee that the Union implemented to engage their target audience and students to increase awareness for on campus coffee shops. Was I terrified having so much free reign, absolutely! However, the experience was such a fun way to get more insight to something I could actually be doing in the real world.
The best part about working on the promotions team is how much it benefits my other ESU position at the information desk. My responsibilities at the desk aren’t as exciting as my work in the office. I answer questions that any guest in the Union might have, as well as run the print stop. The tasks for this job aren’t what is challenging, engaging with students and other visitors is the harder part. We are the face of the ESU. When people come up to the information desk, they expect me to have all the answers. I honestly think working at both positions has helped me truly understand ESU, what type of events they host and what resources they have or house.
Sometimes I feel like I’m juggling too much, and working at an on campus job is too much, but then I remember the benefits. The obvious is having a schedule that is built around my classes. I KNOW that isn’t the same for off campus jobs. Then there are other perks. As a PR professional, it is important to look at your key audience, for the ESU that is primarily students, and know how to message to them. Being a student myself I have a bit of insight, but getting to work face-to-face with our audience on a daily basis at the information desk, I get insight to what students want and expect when they enter the Student Union.
An opportunity I didn’t see walking into this job is perfectly illustrated in the article ‘The Benefits of On Campus Jobs During College’ that says, “Many students who seek on campus employment are able to grow their networks this way, leaving them with more career opportunities after graduation.” Every PR student knows it’s all about networking. Through my job at ESU, I have built relationships with Grad Assistants and staff members, who have connections throughout Warrensburg and other local areas. Knowing that they have seen my work ethic at not only one job, but two, makes me confident that when I graduate, I can turn to those professionals for potential recommendations or jobs.
I never thought I would find a job on campus that would truly help me prepare for post-graduation life, but working at the Elliott Student Union has given me that opportunity.
The Benefits of On Campus Jobs During College. (2015, April 15). Retrieved from https://gentwenty.com/on-campus-jobs/
By Emily Thole
It is officially March, one of the most exciting months of the year. This month brings forth multiple things to look forward to. March is a time to celebrate Women’s History, St. Patrick’s Day, spring break, and one of the most exciting and authentic events in college athletics: March Madness.
March Madness is a historic event that involves 68 of the best college basketball teams in the nation, matching up for a chance to compete for the NCAA Men’s Division I National Championship. There will be excitement. There will be upsets. There will “edge-of-your-seat” moments. And behind it all, there will be moments where public relations plays a powerful role in the game of basketball.
When you look at March Madness, there are a few things you can take away from the game that also apply to the public relations profession.
- Teamwork makes the dream work.
Most teams don’t rely on just one player to win a game. Each individual plays a specific role to help achieve an end goal. That may be defense, shooting threes, or cheering from the bench.
Public relations works the same way. Each person in an organization must keep the end goal in mind by understanding client needs, publics, objectives, strategies and more. Team members must know their role to keep the project on task and consistent. If someone doesn’t complete their tasks, they may hinder the end result.
- Believe in comebacks.
In basketball, anything is possible. Your team may be down by 20 points, but with heart and persistence, they can still win the game. In PR, sometimes it may seem like your organization can never come back from a crisis. No matter how hard you push ahead, something keeps pushing back
Understand that although your organization may fall, you can stand up and keep pushing until the buzzer sounds. Your game plan may need to change and adjust as the crisis occurs, but maintain a winning attitude and strategy, and you can come out on top.
- Practice makes perfect.
Each team wants to win a national title, but unlike other teams, UCLA is used to the applause. The school has won 11 national championships over the years, but they still keep pushing to get be better. They could settle with their glory, or practice to achieve more.
As a PR professional, you must polish your skills in order to stay on top of the game. Industry trends, media, networking and more are changing daily. Practicing and polishing your skills can only make you a better PR professional for the future.
Each of these points proves that the game of basketball and the business of public relations have a lot in common. Just as in March Madness, making it far in the PR industry is not guaranteed, but with the right preparation and mindset, your organization can create their own Cinderella story.
By Amanda Ferrin
Although you may not be considering working abroad, intercultural awareness is essential for anyone in the PR industry. Whether you’re interested in working in the corporate sector or a nonprofit, understanding the global market can greatly enhance your career.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to do my internship for a tourist company in Costa Rica. It was a terrifying experience that forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Here are some of the things I took away from it:
1. Knowing English is vital, but learning a second language is important
Considered to be the language of business and technology, English is the most spoken language of the 21st century. There are over 1.5 billion global speakers around the world! However, recent data from the United States Census Office suggests that the nation will have an estimated 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, which would make it the largest Spanish-speaking nation.
Because our world is getting smaller and more diverse, many employers are looking for bilingual people to work in their PR/communication departments. Although you may not be able to travel abroad or take language classes, there are many free apps and websites, like Duolingo, available for practicing your language skills.
2. Successful communication isn’t always with words
Although I was translating marketing materials from Spanish, my actual Spanish-speaking abilities are limited. There were many instances where I had to use hand gestures to convey what I was trying to say. Smiling and showing confidence is key in those situations. Whether there is a language barrier or just a communication gap, stay aware of your non-verbals, which are vital in making a positive connection. This is especially important when you’re interviewing or meeting with clients.
3. Learn to look outside of your own cultural lens
When you are living in a certain location for a while, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is exposed to the same things as you. Your organization may be targeting a large demographic of people who have diverse interests. It’s vital to consider how things will be perceived by your audience.
Although we are taught everything in PR is deadline-driven, I found that to be less true in Costa Rica. Living by the phrase, “Pura Vida”, Costa Rican culture is laid back. The World Cup was going on during my internship and my co-workers actually stopped working to watch the game. If you ever partner with an international company, you may find yourself adjusting to different cultural norms.
4. Research, research, research
We are told to do this all the time as students, but it’s so important! I don’t know many people who use WhatsApp in the U.S., but it’s actually the most popular messaging solution in the world. Nearly 1 billion people are using it and everyone was using it in Costa Rica. Don’t assume that what’s popular at home is popular somewhere else. Do your research! You may have to utilize social media platforms you’ve never used or sell a product that’s not well-known in the U.S.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned during my internship. Whether you choose to stay in Missouri or move to the other side of the world, having intercultural awareness can give you the capacity to develop meaningful relationships with new, diverse audiences.