Tagged: social media

TikTok and The Race to Join Emerging Social Platforms

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? 

History 

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

Growing Hesitations 

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:

Clubhouse 

Twitter Spaces 

Caffeine 

Instagram Reels

Houseparty 

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. 

Sources: 

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/new-social-media

https://revive.digital/blog/most-popular-social-media/

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/tiktok-privacy-threat-sure-so-are-most-your-sma rtphone-apps-n1233625 

https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/the-rapid-rise-of-tiktok

Generation Z: the “Changemaker” Generation

By Ashleigh Horn

There’s no denying that each generation is different. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Xennials, Millennials, Generation Z, I’m sure as you read each of these titles, you may have recalled your own thoughts toward each group. During a time where as many as five different generations are working together in the workplace, it’s important to understand how they all function and what each brings to the table.

Though I could certainly cover all five of these and the impacts they have in the workplace, I want to instead provide first-hand insight into a generation that is seemingly misunderstood by its predecessors. This is a generation with a desire to create change; a generation that I have nearly 21 years of experience being part of. 

Who are we?

Although the lines defining the age range of my generation are a bit blurry, the Pew Research Center identifies this group as having been born after 1996 (Parker & Igielnik, 2020). Today, some Gen Z-ers walk the halls of middle schools, whereas others are hunched over books in their dorm rooms, working full-time agency jobs or even preparing to vote in the upcoming presidential election. There’s no doubt we’re all at different stages in our lives; however, somehow, some way, there are a few common desires and passions we all seem to share. 

How is this generation different?

Generation Z is the largest generation to date. We also have access to more technology, media and quite honestly, each other, than any generation before us. It may be our sheer size, or it quite simply may be the comfort we feel in sharing our thoughts and ideas through Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, that compels us to reach for our dreams and to stand up for what we believe in. Politics, social injustice, sustainability, ideas for new products or businesses, we Gen Z-ers are a researched, opinionated, innovative, change-making group.

The Target Incubator

A few years back, the Target retail chain set out to better connect with this next generation of consumers. One way they did so, was through directly engaging with young Gen Z entrepreneurs in what they called the “Target Incubator.” Inspired by these young adults’ big ideas about “better for people” and “better for the planet” products, the company selected eight business pitches, created by students, to help become a reality.

You may be asking, “Why would the company do this, and what was their reward?”

Generation Z is often referred to as the “Changemaker” generation. Target recognized that many of its Gen Z consumers have big plans to change the world and sought to help make their dreams become reality. The students’ ideas ranged from producing compostable single-use products to using juice pulp waste to create healthy snacks. These eight businesses were not only unique—they did not simply provide innovative products or services—rather, they were all created as solutions to a number of the social and environmental issues we face in the 21st century.

I think James Sancto, founder of We Make Change, hit the nail on the head when he described Generation Z’s passion as “not willing to accept the world as it is, [who] believes [it] can address the challenges the world faces today, and [who] will do whatever [it] can to make the change [it wants] to see” (Sancto, 2019). The product of the Target Incubator is a testament to Gen Z’s eagerness and willingness to ensure the changes we wish to happen are made.

Our Values

Mission-Minded

Gen Z’s not so breakthrough solution to creating change is to have a purpose. Whether you’re a business, college institution, or just someone we pass on the street, Gen Z-ers want to know what you’re all about. 

What are your goals? 

Who or what do you stand for?

Does your vision align with what we believe? 

Generation Z prioritizes purpose and “[looks] to engage with brands and organizations that have a higher purpose that goes well beyond a simple transaction” (Beal, 2019). Unlike generations before us, we don’t simply purchase a product or rep a brand because we like it or it’s “convenient.” Rather, we use the power of reviews and our access to technology to compare prices, product availability, to research a company’s CSR practices and what it values, in order to make educated purchases (Salesfloor, n.d.).

Google, Netflix, Spotify and the Walt Disney Company are all examples of some of the most loved brands by Gen Z consumers. It’s no coincidence that all of these same companies placed in the Digital Marketing Institutes (2020) list of the “Top 16 Brands doing Corporate Social Responsibility Correctly.” Generation Z values these brands because they do more than provide their specific products and services; these companies use their platforms to create change on issues important to their employees and to each company as a whole.

Passion-Pursing

As I mentioned earlier, Gen Z-ers look for ways to impact our own corners of the world. In fact, we often make decisions with long-term consequences in mind. We’ve been called lazy, self-involved, tech-dependent, and more (The NPD Group, 2020). Yes, some of these monikers may be partly true. But, we are also a passionate generation focused on standing up for only those issues or movements that align with our interests. Our passions drive our actions. We just might change the world.

Takeaway

As each new year has passed onto the next, Generation Z, or the “Changemaker” generation, has become older and older. With this age has come new responsibilities, both in our own lives and in contributing to the world around us. We are growing up, entering the workforce and making an impact in our own generationally-unique way. Slowly but surely, we are revealing who we are, what we value, what our goals are, and are debunking the generational stereotypes that have defined us since we were babies. In turn, we are using these differences to provide new perspectives in both the workplace and in society, and are doing all in our power to create change.

Resources 

https://medium.com/we-make-change/we-are-the-changemaker-generation-7b6ae77b5f7f

https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/essay/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far/

https://corporate.target.com/article/2018/10/target-incubator

https://corporate.target.com/article/2019/06/target-incubator-founders

https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/tips-trends-takeaways/guide-to-gen-z-debunking-the-myths-of-our-youngest-generation/

https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/corporate-16-brands-doing-corporate-social-responsibility-successfully

https://prsay.prsa.org/2019/08/06/5-tips-to-effectively-engage-generation-zers/

Five PR Tools to Make a Difference

By: Sarah Arnett

When I entered college, I did not know what I wanted to major in. While I knew I wanted to make a difference, I continued to explore and research, eventually landing in Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn’s office to discuss public relations. However, I was unsure how public relations made a difference in the world around me. As I begin my senior year, I have a set of tools in my back pocket, ready to utilize and make a difference. 

– Networking 

Networking is crucial to public relations. To be a successful professional, it is important to make connections whenever the opportunity presents itself. Whether it be at a professional event or at the local Starbucks, never pass up the opportunity to make a connection with somebody. You never know, they may be your next partner on a groundbreaking campaign! 

– Social Media 

Gone are the days of reading the morning newspaper. Instead, you can catch people scrolling through Twitter and checking their email first thing in the morning. A strategic public relations professional knows that social media is a powerful tool to share messages and appeal to human interest. 

– Team Work 

As much as some hate group work, there is no denying that the best ideas come from the culmination of several ideas. When used effectively, group work sparks creativity and inspires great ideas. These ideas are the ones that motivate audience members to take action, making a lasting impact. 

– Setting SMART Goals 

If you want to change the world through public relations, big goals are to be expected. However, it is important to make those goals SMART. A goal must be strategic, with sound reasoning and research backing it up. It must also be measurable, to ensure that it is results driven and justifiable use of resources. A goal must also be attainable and realistic, as there is no point in setting a goal that has no chance of being accomplished. A goal must also be time-bound to ensure that resources are being used efficiently and team members are focused on providing results. By setting SMART goals, public relations professionals have a strong plan in place to change the world. 

– Finding Your Passion 

At the end of the day, the biggest results will come from efforts you are passionate about. There will be projects that you work on that don’t set your soul on fire, and that is okay. But the best ideas and results come from working on things that set your soul on fire. Whether that is grounding breaking technology or a new brand of coffee, the best results are those that you are proud of and feel that you made a difference with. 

By combining these skills, as well as many others, public relations professionals are able to provide results that make an impact on the world one message at a time. I’m excited to put them to use in my future career as a public relations professional!

Five tips for building your brand on Twitter

By Brittany Green

When Twitter was first launched, people were uncertain how successful it would be. Now in 2016, there are millions of users and more than 500 million tweets sent out every day. People are using Twitter to find news, share information and connect with people and businesses around the world.  It has become a very powerful tool, not only for social purposes, also to help businesses market their brands.Some of the most successful companies use Twitter because it allows them to reach a large audience, interact with them quickly and keep them updated with content information.

Image credit: @chipotletweets via Twitter

Image credit: @chipotletweets via Twitter

Chipotle is a great example of a company that efficiently uses Twitter to interact with it’s audiences. According to a 2011 Nation’s Restaurant News Study, 90 percent of the company’s activity on Twitter is responding to customers through @mentions. Chipotle currently has 743,000 followers that it can interact and share content with. That is certainly amazing, but also something that, in principle, any business can do. If you’re interested in using Twitter to build your brand, here are some tips to help you get started.

Use the search feature

One of Twitter’s most powerful tools is the search feature. It can operate as a “global human search engine” of sorts and allows people to find others on Twitter with relevant information to share. Researchers also can look to see which topics are trending to stay informed and gauge audience interests. Hashtags (#) can help people immensely when searching. Just put a “#” in front of a topic and a lists of relevant tweets will appear. This can save you a lot of trouble and makes it very easy to search.

Know your audience

It is VERY important to know your audience. This will help you communicate clearly and make information relevant to them. If the content is not interesting, they will quickly move on to the next thing that interests them. The search feature can be very useful for learning about your
target audiences. It can tell you what is trending and their opinions on what’s going on. Another option is to look at various profiles and start collecting information. What are their interests and opinions? When are they active? Who do they follow? Which demographic groups do they belong to? These details can help give you an edge when creating strategic messaging for your audiences.

Customize the profile page

Image credit: @Royals via Twitter

Image credit: @Royals via Twitter

This plays a BIG role in visitors’ decisions to either read your content or move on. If your page is boring and doesn’t attract visitors, they probably aren’t going to follow you. The profile page should grab the visitors’ attention and convey who you are and what you’re about. While customizing the profile page, perhaps the most important decision is choosing a good avatar, as it will appear next to every tweet that is sent out. Make it something recognizable and eye-catching. Brand logos often fit well here since they are usually designed with these ideas in mind. An attractive banner image is a nice touch as well, and don’t forget to include links to your other social media accounts and/or website in order to create deeper engagement.

Tweet interesting content

This one may seem obvious, but bland content is still a common mistake that plagues the social media of many businesses. The Twitter feed is built around scrolling endlessly through a series of short posts. To escape the monotony, many people just scroll until something grabs their attention. Content should be fun, interesting and useful. Common themes or ideas in your content can help to establish your brand identity and keep readers coming back. Interesting, personal content is what separates your brand from everyone else, so use it to your advantage.

Engage with other accounts

Engaging with other accounts, particularly those within your industry/field, can be highly beneficial. Building relationships can help to build your reputation, grow your brand, increase awareness, provide sources of interesting content and keep you informed. This can also keep you informed about what your competitors might be doing and the state of the market.

 

More and more businesses are using Twitter as a professional communication platform, and if you follow these tips, yours can be one of them. On that note, remember to follow Innovative PR on Twitter and Facebook.

Get the most out of Instagram: tips for business and personal use

By Jamie Jackson

I love Instagram. I really do. It’s fun to post pictures and to get a sneak peek into strangers’ lives (why is this not a weird statement anymore?).

Instagram is a popular social media outlet for personal use, however, it is also becoming popular among companies for branding and marketing. Here are a few tips to get the most out of Instagram for your business (or even your personal account).

Use brightly colored and well-lit photos

Image credit: Leon Bridges via Instagram

Image credit: Leon Bridges via Instagram

Image credit: Starbucks via Instagram

Image credit: Starbucks via Instagram

An attractive photo stream doesn’t usually involve unedited, dull pictures. Starbucks’ Instagram feed is full of colorful and attractive photos.

However – not all black and white pictures should be thrown in the trash. Leon Bridges’ photo stream has some great examples of how black and white pictures can still be great for Instagram.

Leon is an R&B artist embracing soul music. These black and white images line up perfectly with Leon’s personal brand and the subjects he sings about.

Instagram is effective when people follow you, and you gain followers by giving people what they want. On Instagram, that means aesthetically pleasing photos.

Be personal

No one wants to see another ad on Instagram. Sure, if you’re a clothing store, post pictures of new arrivals. If you have a great new product, it’s okay to feature it in a post. But Instagram shouldn’t be used as an online store. Try something like this:

Image credit: Microsoft via Instagram

Image credit: Microsoft via Instagram

Image credit: Microsoft via Instagram

Image credit: Microsoft via Instagram

Tell stories. Show consumers the faces behind the name.

You are more than an ad agency or a boring, unoriginal company. Show the fun! Unless you really want people to think you’re a boring, unoriginal company – in which case, I’m afraid I can’t help you there.insta

If you use Instagram, actually USE it

Post consistently. Don’t post once or twice, or for a season. If you put an intern in charge of the account, make sure someone else takes over after they leave.

Consistency is key in posting and branding. If you use hashtags on Twitter or Facebook, use the same for Instagram. Use your same logo as the profile picture, link to the same website, use the same voice and use your brand. Instagram provides a unique opportunity to tell your story solely through pictures. As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Steward them well.

Be hip

Image credit: McDonald's via Instagram

Image credit: McDonald’s via Instagram

By this, I don’t mean try to use modern slang just because it’s used by young people. You risk misusing or misunderstanding words and phrases, potentially losing credibility and followers. Instead, follow current trends and try to stay fun. This post from McDonald’s is a great example.

Celebrate things like hump day. Be relevant in your posts on holidays or during big world issues. This might seem like it won’t affect sales, but an online presence that seems real and personal is so valuable to a company – especially with younger people.

Evaluate

While Insta is more fun and exciting than a lot of other tools, it’s still very measurable and very valuable. Do it better by evaluating your efforts with Instagram analytics tools. Instagram is great for reaching younger audiences and telling your story with photos. Evaluating any social media effort is a chance to show the C-suite their money is being used well. It also gives coordinators a chance to change their efforts as needed depending on what works and what doesn’t. Evaluation helps to refine and target your audiences and determines if you are indeed reaching them. All efforts are wasteful if not evaluated frequently.

 

Social media is a wonderful branding tool when used properly. Millennials grew up with this stuff, so employ some of them to help you navigate new waters. It’s worth it. Speaking of social, you’ll want to follow IPR on Twitter and Facebook for the latest.

 

Jumping on the live streaming bandwagon

Image via thehrcreative.com

By Kristina Keeling

Trends in social media come and go, and the big trend right now is live streaming. So how are we, as PR professionals, supposed to know if we should jump on the bandwagon or let it run its course? This week, we take a closer look at the live streaming trend to see if this is something we should take seriously.

MeerkatMeerkat

Life On Air released this mobile live streaming app in February 2015. When you start recording, it sends an automated tweet telling others that you are live via Meerkat. It was a huge hit – for the first few days – and then twitter decided to pull the plug on its Application Programming Interface (API). Without this software, Meerkat couldn’t integrate Twitter’s social graphs. So what does this mean? Well, when new users joined, they weren’t automatically connected to those they followed on Twitter. This hinders Meerkat because users won’t be automatically notified by the app when friends are broadcasting unless they manually build their followers. This, in turn, means people will not be on the app.

In response to Twitter’s decision to block access to their API and social graph, Meerkat’s CEO, Ben Rubin, told Yahoo Tech, “We are definitely going to start our own network. We are already starting to decouple the social graph.” In the meantime, the app released an update to help users connect, so now users can search for others by their Twitter username.

Periscope

Why was Twitter so intent on shutting down Meerkat? Well, with a quick Google search, I found out that Twitter bought a competitive app, Periscope, in March 2015 – just after Meerkat launched. Periscope works similarly to Meerkat in that it allows others to know when you are live streaming via tweets and notifications. Twitter pulled their API and made it harder for Meerkat to be integrated with the platform, thus making Periscope the only live streaming app that is seamlessly connected to Twitter.

A quick breakdown of the apps

PeriscopeThe layouts of the two services are different, but both are user friendly. When you open Meerkat you are brought to a “landing page” where you can let your followers know what is happening. In Meerkat you are able to schedule live streams, so you can let your followers know that you will be live in the near future or that you are talking about a topic right now. When you scroll down on the landing page you can see who is live now, and further down you can see what is scheduled.

When you open up Periscope, you see who on your followers list is live, followed by featured live streams and your followers’ most recent live streams. Periscope also offers a world map and a list view of who is live.

In short, both apps offer attractive features.

Which one should I use?

In terms of popularity, Periscope is definitely winning the race between live streaming services. Each app, however, has its own advantages and disadvantages that may suit your personal preference. Personally, I enjoy the world map on Periscope seeing who is live streaming around me, but I do like how you can schedule live feeds on Meerkat. Since I downloaded the apps, I have definitely checked Periscope more often, as it has the advantage of notifying me when the people I follow are live streaming.

Live streaming is definitely still in its infancy. I was expecting to see more people I personally knew using the apps and was surprised at how few used them. I do think that live streaming will gain more popularity when major events, such as pro baseball and football championships roll around. Live streaming apps will have an advantage because they will allow people to feel like they are really at the event. Celebrities and major influencers in the social media world will be able to live stream the backstage experience, or other things  at major events.

“The Sleeping Giant of Live Streaming”

YouTube Live

Image via waltribeiro.com

Periscope and Meerkat might soon have some competition in the live streaming realm, as YouTube recently released its own live streaming capabilities. YouTube will likely target different audiences for its live streaming services, though. Right now, YouTube live streaming is popular with the sports and gaming audience. Once more YouTube “creators” jump on board the live streaming trend though, YouTube may be the go-to destination  for live streaming.

 

I think that live streaming is here to stay – for a while, at least. It is a great tool for instant news and entertainment. What do you think? Is live streaming here to stay? Comment below with your thoughts on Meerkat, Periscope and YouTube Live, and don’t forget to follow IPR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social media safety: how to protect yourself and your content

social media 1

Image via socialmediatoday.com

by Briana Piercey

We live in a world that is totally saturated with social media. Being constantly connected is the new standard. If you don’t post, tweet or “snap” a video of your every move, people may just assume your life is boring. The problem is, this habit can cause people to share too much, which can have much worse consequences. Let’s just say that everything isn’t meant to be posted.

There’s an old saying: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” When it comes to social media, though, it’s not how you post, it’s what you post. Social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are platforms where people brand themselves — whether they intend to or not. Posting without careful thought can create unnecessary risks, and although social media sites are great for sharing and connecting with others, they can also taint your professional image.

Control your content

Some people may think that if their profile pages are set to private instead of public, they’re protecting themselves. Although that’s ideally true, that’s not always the case. Despite the general privacy settings on a person’s page, the content they share is often available to “friends of friends,” which greatly increases the number of people who can see their post. Always check your privacy settings to see who exactly can view your content.

The “non-renewable” post

When on a social site, think of your control of your content as a non-renewable resource; once you’ve used it, it’s gone. When a Facebook or Twitter user hits that post/tweet button, that status leaves their control, never to be returned. Of course, you might have the option to delete specific content, which may provide a sense of authority as a social media user. However, websites often keep caches of everything people post and other users are able to take screenshots of content. By the time you delete something, it may already be too late. Once you post, you can delete but you can’t hide.

Social media safety

smeblog2

Image via teamjimmyjoe.com

Along with potentially damaging your image, being careless on social media can also pose risks to your physical, financial or legal safety. Features such as location tracking or the contact information section of your profile page, for example, can reveal more than you might think. Crimes related to social media have increased at an alarming rate in recent years, so if you want to be cautious, here are a few tips for staying safe on social media:

Don’t announce your every move

“I just brushed my hair in the bathroom on 122 Lane Avenue and I’m headed to the Lennox shopping center all by my lonesome!” Okay, so this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it definitely simulates posts made by our fellow social media addicts. Publicizing your every move keeps family and friends informed of your whereabouts, but it updates potential predators as well. Play it safe and spare us the details. Simplicity is key.

Know who your friends and followers are

Contrary to what they would have you believe, not everyone on social media is your friend, and some may even have ill intentions from the moment they message you. Avoid accepting friend requests from people you don’t know and be aware of who’s following you. It might help you steer clear of hackers or other potential threats.

Avoid using profanity, images with alcohol, or other questionable content

smeblog3Regardless of what you’re told, don’t think future employers, the Greek organization you’d like to join or even potential predators won’t do their research ad check your social sites.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for knowing if something is okay to post: If you’re not sure whether or not you should post it, #DontDoIt.

 

Are you conscious of your social media content? Do you have any tips to help people stay safe on social media? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The realities of being a PR Major

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UCM PR Students

by Maria Schomer

“What do you do?” It’s usually the first question I get asked when I tell people I am a public relations major. My friends, who know little about PR, assume that I take the easiest classes and all I learn is the structure of a press release and how to manipulate the public. My family, however, believes public relations takes a lot of skill and that I know how to speak in front of a large crowd without getting nervous.

So what do public relations majors actually learn? Social media? Event planning? Sure, we cover that (among other things). But what people and other students don’t realize is the amount of time and hard work we dedicate to being a public relations major.

Thinking back to the simpler, less stressful days of my freshman year I realized how my understanding of different aspects of public relations has changed.

AP writing can consume you

When you think about public relations, do you think about writing? I didn’t. What about writing in a different way than standard English composition? I really didn’t consider that either. The Associated Press (AP) is a style of writing that is used by all public relations professionals. It’s not quite like learning another language but you do have to learn different ways to punctuate sentences, whether or not a word needs to be capitalized, correct use of titles and a whole lot more. Fortunately, we do have a reference book, or survival guide of sorts that we can use to help: the AP Style Guide.

How hard can social media be?

You use it everyday, sometimes multiple times. Social media is easy to understand, right? Take Facebook: you just log in and update people about what is happening in your life. How hard is that?

facebook-twitter-tumblr-instagram-aziz-tom

Clip from “Parks and Recreation” — GIF found at gubulldog.wordpress.com

In reality, as public relations majors, it’s much more complex. You have to grasp the latest social media platforms and trends. You must have an understanding of where different publics generally traffic social media platforms and why. You may think that Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are what companies mostly use to share news with followers, and you’re not wrong. However, social media is much more than a weekly status update, it can help build relationships between a company and its publics. Creating a dialogue like this helps build costumer loyalty and provides valuable feedback.

To put the importance of social media into perceptive, Lucas Miller, a PR specialist at Fusion 360, believes you have to show the return-on-investment while working with social media for an industry. This is because, although social media continues to grow every day, companies are still skeptical about the effects social media can have on their publics.

It’s a networking world

Getting to know others in the public relations field can be a valuable learning experience. There is no better time to network with a professional than when you are in college. Professionals are often willing to help a college student out because they know what it’s like being a student with little to no experience. Additionally, most professionals are willing to be a contact if you ever have any questions or want them to look over your résumé.

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PR professionals weigh in at a UCM PRSSA event

But how do you network when you’re still in college? There are several options that a college student can use to network. They can join their campus chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Also, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is a national organization that hosts networking and workshop events for professionals and students alike. Students often don’t realize that networking can help further their career and the more they attend networking events the better their connections will be.

 

Is Public Relations the easiest major out there? No. But can it be the most rewarding? Absolutely.

We want to hear from some current and alumni public relations majors! What advice or reality would you want a new PR major to know?  Comment below and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Maintaining Creativity for PR

by Maria Schomer

Maintaining creativity can be difficult and most people tend to believe they are not creative. This is not true. Everyone has a little creative nature to them. Kirk Hallahan of Colorado State University suggests that creativity is not passed down through genes; rather, people learn how to think creatively.

As an Innovative PR specialist I have to be creative every day, working on different projects, from creating messages and graphics for social media, to writing blogs and press releases. The question becomes: how is creativity important to public relations?

Working creativity in PR

Almost every course we take as part of the UCM PR Program requires us to think strategically and creatively. As future public relations professionals, we need to understand what our audiences want, what is most important to them, and how to communicate with them effectively. Let’s use social media as an example. Among other things, we need to know what will engage the public to participate in conversations with our company or clients. Using hashtags is a powerful way to do this to get things started, however, we need to think creatively about what the hashtag will say and how it can be communicated.

Unlocking Creativity

Many times people can experience a creative block, where the continuous flow of ideas instantly comes to a stop. Getting the creativity flowing again can be challenging. Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, wrote “9 ways to become more creative in 10 minutes” for Inc. Here are the four techniques Kim talked about that I feel are most effective.

  1. Draw Something. It can be doodles of circles or a tree. By drawing you are able to stay focused in meetings and your surroundings, this can spark creative ideas.
  1. Join Flash Fiction. Flash Fiction is a type of writing where you can write whatever you feel but in a quick manner consisting of about 100 words. When you use flash fiction there’s no need to feel pressure, you can simply get your thoughts written and ideas can start flowing again.
  2. Take a break from brainstorming and take a walk. Brainstorming can be highly effective to create ideas. However, breaks are needed sometimes, especially if a creative block occurs. Taking a walk can help ease your mind.
  1. Have a stress ball handy. Focusing on something other than the problem can help spark ideas. Having a stress ball or toy on your desk is good for a five minute break so you can unlock your creativity.

What do you do when you are stuck in a creative block? We would love to hear from you! As always follow Innovative PR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Starbucks Gets Roasted

by Nikki McClaran

If you got your iced caramel macchiato at Starbucks last week, you probably found “Race Together” written on your cup. No, this was not a challenge to initiate a store-wide coffee drinking competition, but Starbucks’ attempt at a social awareness campaign about racial inequality.

The idea: Initiate conversation about diversity through your cup of Joe.
The outcome: Serious backlash, a shut-down Twitter account, and the halt of the campaign the week of its launch.

This was not Starbucks first dive into social issues, the Starbucks Foundation being a large part of the global corporation. So, how did this campaign manage to fail so miserably, even with such good intentions? Looking from a purely PR perspective, Starbucks’ committed two missteps that really burnt the beans.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Racial inequality has been a serious topic in the news this past year with headlines from the Ferguson, Mo. crisis and Eric Garner’s death. Unlike Starbuck’s past campaigns that addressed AIDS and jobs in America, this social issue stands out in that it is at a peak of tension with two distinct sides. Making customers believe that Starbucks was truly invested in the issue rather than being financially opportunistic required thorough planning- something Starbucks failed to do.

Planning comes at all levels, and not only did the corporate executives not know how to handle the situation (spoiler: that’s next), the baristas didn’t either. Videos of baristas being unaware of the program or not wanting to discuss it began popping up all over the web.

Starbucks, I get that you’re a big company and it’s hard to get everyone on the same page, but with such a heated topic, better preparing the ones who are primarily responsible for executing the campaign might be a good idea, especially since you were just accused of creating gentrification. It could prevent you coming off as a money-hungry corporation, seeking to capitalize on sensitive issues.

Brew up a crisis plan, and actually follow it.

Social media is like coffee. It has the ability to brighten your day and energize all of your efforts, but it also has the capability to give you really bad breathe before that 8 a.m. meeting. As an active social media beast, you would think that Starbucks is prepared for the negative consequences social media can bring, but that didn’t seem to happen. Almost immediately after its launch last Sunday, Starbucks began receiving serious Twitter backlash.

I’m assuming (and hoping) that Starbucks had a crisis plan established, yet rather than follow it, they responded the worst way you probably could- they didn’t. Corey duBrowa, Starbucks’ senior vice president of communications, fueled the fire by supposedly blocking Twitter accounts that responded negatively to Race Together and deactivating his own account. Bad move, duBrowa.

And now Starbucks’ chairman and CEO, Howard Shultz, is defending that the halting of the campaign as planned and intended. I hope this is true, rather than a last-minute attempt to justify the company’s actions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to visit Starbucks for my soy, no foam latte. Honestly, Starbucks has done a great job with social media engagement and humanitarian events in the past. This just wasn’t Starbucks’ cup of tea and from it we can see the value in proper campaign planning and crisis management. Want to espresso your thoughts? Comment below.

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