Crisis Management 101

By: Alexa Gonzaga

IMG_0710 (1)

What are you supposed to do when your organization is in hot water? On March 10, Greg Wise, vice president of global public relations and communications firm Weber Shandwick, spoke to us about how to handle a PR fiasco.

A crisis can happen to any organization, regardless of what field they’re in. According to Wise, it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis occurs, it’s “when.” Wise stresses the importance of being prepared for whatever bad situation arises. “Things happen so quickly in a crisis situation that if you haven’t done things in advance, there’s no time to do it while it’s happening,” Wise said.

Wise spoke of the four phases of handling crisis situations:

Anticipation

The first step is developing a plan to put in place should a crisis occur. You don’t want to be caught off guard. Don’t just wing it – be prepared!

Preparedness

Does the plan work? According to Wise, it’s important to test that plan and see how effective it is. “Today we do crisis drills that are really ‘360,’” Wise said. “We can simulate a crisis where the internal communications team is seeing and living a crisis as it happens. The objective is to create a crisis situation as close to real life as possible.”

Rapid Response

“When a crisis does happen, we want to draw on all the preparation we’ve done beforehand so we can be ready to respond,” Wise said. In other words, now is the time to deploy your plan through various channels. At the end of the day, you should look at what worked and what didn’t and decide on what steps to take next.

Recovery

Once the crisis has passed, it’s time to perform a post-crisis analysis and to make any necessary changes. Ask, how well did your plan work?

Above all, it’s vital for an organization to be truthful with its constituents. Emotion plays a huge role in crises and it’s important to connect with people on that level, rather than just spewing the same statement over and over like a robot. People tend to respond more positively to organizations that show their humanity.

“We all have emotions and we’re going to look at what the company is presenting through the lens of how we feel about it,” Wise said. “It’s important to be authentic and transparent and honest about how you’re handling the crisis.”

Career Fair Preparation

By: Koby Ahmed

Spring break may be just around the corner, but PR folks know that vacations and relaxation are still a little ways away with the Spring 2015 Communication Job and Internship Fair tomorrow, March 11. To help you with your last-minute preparations, we have compiled some of the best resources, tips, and strategies under the burnt-orange sun.

Who do you want to talk to?

Take the time to review the employers before you attend. Develop a list of those that you are most interested in and plan talking points for each. Do you have past experience that is relevant to the position you want? What do you already know about their company? Is there a specific question you can ask that will show your interest and preparation? Your first-choice employer may have a long line, so ensure you have others selected that you can also speak with.

TIP #1: When closing the conversation with an employer, don’t forget to ask for a business card.

Who do you want to remember?

When talking to employers, be sure to remember what you talked about so that when you apply for a position with their company, you can mention how you enjoyed talking about TOPIC A with EMPLOYER A at the UT Austin spring communications career fair.

TIP #2: The best way to remember what you talked about is to take down a few notes, along with the employer’s name, after your conversation.

How do you want to be remembered?

You should probably have some kind of résumé on file by now, but in case you want to change it up a little to fit the companies you are visiting and applying for, the College of Communication has a comprehensive guide to creating the best résumé for your skill-set and job purpose. The guide contains recommendations on formatting your résumé to suit the variety of majors offered within the college.

TIP #3: Before you hand your résumé to the employer you’re starting a conversation with, ask if you can give them one. Sometimes they’ll want them, but sometimes they don’t want to be carrying about hundreds of resumes post-career fair.

Be confident, get excited, and have fun. This is a two-way street. Employers are interested in eager, diligent students with often more capability rather than experience. And where better to look than UT, right?

Good luck out there, and Hook ‘Em!

P.S. Consider booking an appointment with Communication Career Services before applying for internships and jobs. Busy schedule? The offices have convenient walk-in hours in the morning and afternoon. These visits aren’t just for résumés either – they can help with a multitude of professional needs: mock interviews, attire recommendations, and more.

Interview with Brand Developer at The Company of Others

By: Caterina Nasr

Located in West Houston, The Company of Others is an advertising agency with an incredible environment and unique skill set. We had the chance to interview Sofia Nasr, a brand development coordinator at The Company of Others and former PRSSA vice president during her time as a marketing communications student at Emerson College, and asked her about her career and life at the agency.

1

Sofia Nasr, brand development coordinator at The Company of Others

What is your position/role at The Company of Others?

I’m a brand development coordinator. My department has to communicate with the client to find out what are their needs and requirements to help develop a strategy for an upcoming project. The requests range from an individual item they need or something on a larger scale, such as implementing a program or marketing campaign, so strategy and planning has to be carefully thought through.

I’ll be a part of that brainstorming and planning process, and from there I draft a project brief addressing what is the project, the main message that has to be communicated, and what are the deliverables needed. I’ll then go over the brief with people assigned to the project from different departments in the agency.

What makes The Company of Others unique from other advertising agencies?

As a full-service advertising agency, there are a lot of departments that have to work together to execute work for all the clients we have. However, we don’t work in the way where there are these defined boundaries between departments. We don’t believe everyone should keep to themselves to get the job done. We truly utilize a collaborative environment here at The Company of Others.

Check out The Company of Others on Facebook.

Check out The Company of Others on Facebook.

For example, someone from creative will come to someone in my department to ask for input on the look and feel for a project, not just for approval, but because they value their input and maybe will be inspired from an idea they have. From beginning to end, someone from each department is involved in every step. This approach not only helps to get a diverse perspective for the strategy and creative development, but it also takes the quality of work to another level.

Tell me about “The Other You” initiative The Company of Others introduced and how it has influenced you as an employer?

Last fall, the executives at the agency introduced this internal initiative called “The Other You.” They told us we want to get to know the version of you outside of the “you” that is the employee, hence “The Other You”. Every person at the agency was surveyed about their interests, skills and passions. From there, we were all grouped into different “Passion Groups” based on our results. For example, I was put into the “Cooking & Food” group. We have “Other You” events hosted at the agency, and groups plan activities to do outside the office as well.

“The Other You” program is a way to for employees to not only to get to know each other better, but to also help utilize the knowledge they have from their other interests and passions to inspire work executed here at the agency.

The view of Houston from the TCO office.

The view of Houston from their office.

As a previous member of PRSSA, what kind of lessons did you learn during your time as a member that are still applicable to the real working world today?

PRSSA teaches you the power of personal branding. Every PRSSA event and conference I attended was an opportunity for me to practice my networking skills and how to represent myself in a professional environment. Also, learning tips from different PR professionals on how to leverage my presence on different social media platforms are takeaways I still apply professionally.

Being involved in PRSSA also sets a good foundation for keeping yourself informed. Whether it was a weekly meeting, guest speaker or conference, as a PRSSA member I was constantly exposed to different learning experiences which all emphasized to educate yourself on what’s going on in the industry. Having that knowledge of the latest trends and best practices is power. Now, I do my daily scan of PR and advertising news because as a marketing professional, I know I have to be educated.

Any advice for people interested in pursuing a career in PR/Advertising?

In any type of work or internship environment, don’t be afraid to ask questions. This allows you to continually learn and grow your skills set. If you’re proactive in asking about details or even just about double checking something, you’re showing you care about the work and are interested, and that means a lot to your supervisors. Most importantly it shows you know you’re accountable for the work that is being done, and that makes you a valuable employee.

Agency Tour: FleishmanHillard

By: Tiffany Lin

download_20150220_164121 (1)

Inside the doors of the FleishmanHillard Austin office lays an intimate, yet casual space where deadlines are conquered and campaigns are created. From “Go Beyond” and “Delivering Results at the Point of Impact” to “The Power of True”, FleishmanHillard has rebranded themselves as a more integrated agency in a shift that is different than tradition. With an estimated 80 offices globally, their offices frequently collaborate with each other, and the Austin office is no exception.

Catherine Mitchell, an account executive and UT public relations alumna, started her journey with FleishmanHillard at the San Diego office before being re-hired in the Austin office where she has worked for over a year. Although Catherine relocated, she continues to work with clients from the West Coast of Texas. Since her move, she has joined the social team for AT&T.

Lucy Keith, a senior account executive and UT public relations alumna, has been with FleishmanHillard for roughly three years. Not only does she work with food-based clients such as Mission Beer and Udi’s Gluten Free, but also has a variety of other clients including Texas Oncology.

When choosing interns, recruiters prefer candidates to have prior experience because this way the intern should already have a basic understanding of professional writing or entry level drafting. However, it is not an immediate deal breaker if an individual doesn’t have agency experience in an interview setting; it is all about a positive attitude and an obvious willingness to work hard. It’s best to talk through your resume and be honest about your experiences. If you’ve been a waitress all your life and only a waitress, then say you’re a waitress with confidence. Practicing before the interview will help you decide which professional or personal qualities you want to emphasize and how you want to highlight them. Sell yourself and practice, practice, practice.

Hiring interns may also depend on timing. When agencies have more food-based clients, they’ll want to hire someone who has had experience dealing with similar industries.

Interns are instantly valued members of the agency. Instead of coffee order lists, they are assigned various campaigns with strict deadlines. During the interview, an individual should indicate which types of clients he or she is interested in so that the agency can assign them related clients. Interns have the opportunity to be involved in consumer programs, application launches, or even crisis management, which isn’t for the faint of heart.

If an individual wants to move to another FleishmanHillard office, they have to be rehired at the other office. Typically, the FleishmanHillard teams work hard to keep employees within the FleishmanHillard community though. It’s all about what kind of fresh opportunities are at that location. New York is known for their celebrity media, while San Francisco is the hub for sports media.

download_20150220_164116

FleishmanHillard is an agency that is proud of its members and contributions to its clients. The agency covers all forms of media from social to traditional and is constantly seeking and utilizing the Power of True. Check out their video here.

The PR Special Sauce Recipe

By: Autumn Wagman

JG

What’s the secret to good PR? Jennifer Graybeal has the answer.

Graybeal is the director of public relations and communications at Fancred, the world’s fastest growing sports social network. This app allows you to create your sports fan profile. She compares it to another well-known social network by stating, “While LinkedIn is your identity as a professional, Fancred is your identity as a sports fan.”

One of her biggest accomplishments since her start at Fancred was earning the company a mention in the “Your Weekend Jumpstart” segment on the Today Show. You can imagine how excited she felt after Al Roker told America to download the Fancred app.

This success did not come without hard work and persistence. At our meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 24, Graybeal shared with us her secret to accomplishing such commended rewards. She calls it her “Public Relations Special Sauce.”

Ingredients:

1. Pinch of Identifying Opportunities

In PR, and quite frankly any other profession, there are no freebies. Opportunities are there for the taking; you just have to know where to look. A tip Graybeal gives for discovering these opportunities is scouring the news. You have to watch and read everything you can to gain insight on the business you’re in.

“I have become an expert in the industry I work for – that’s my job,” Graybeal said.

Being aware of what’s going on in the industry of your profession is crucial if you want to be successful.

2. Dash of Thorough Research

The next bit of advice Graybeal offers is to conduct thorough research on the person, organization or company you are pitching to. Get as much information on them as you can BEFORE you pitch to them. It’ll help you to determine what is and isn’t relevant to propose to them and decide the proper plan of action.

3. Sprinkle of Tailored Outreach

Relevant. Relevant. Relevant. This is what kind of information you have to present. Your product or service has to be pertinent to the journalist or reporter you’re pitching to, otherwise, what’s the point?

Graybeal emphasizes this idea when she said, “Tailoring your outreach is really important.”

You need to ask yourself what you can do for who you’re pitching to and how your information is beneficial for them. If you can do this, you’re more likely to have your pitch acknowledged and accepted.

4. Spoonful of Establishing Relationships

So you’ve seized your opportunity, done your research and gotten the journalist to listen to you and use your information. What do you do now? Establish and maintain a relationship.

“If you give a reporter what they want when they want it, you will develop a relationship that will help you down the road,” Graybeal said.

Networking and connection building is critical when it comes to PR. You never know when you’ll have to work with that person again or if you’ll need something from them in the future. Relationships are the key to being successful. I mean, come on, this profession is called public RELATIONS for crying out loud!

If you have any more questions for her or want to know more about Fancred, feel free to email Jennifer Graybeal at jennifer@fancred.com or visit https://fancred.com/about/ for more information.

PR Campaigns Beating Dead Horse on Teen Cigarette Use

shutterstock_132230561

By: Cody Church

Anti-smoking campaigns have the right message, but are targeting the wrong audience.

When watching, reading, or listening to any media content aimed at the teen demographic, chances are you will come across an anti-smoking PSA. Some of them are intended to be humorous, others are downright gut-wrenching – but the message they are sending, despite their differences, is very clear: smoking is burdensome, expensive, dangerous, and not worth the risk. The PSAs, over many decades, have completely changed the way Americans perceive cigarettes and other tobacco products and the message has been received loud and clear by teens and young adults. But the question is, knowing the negative impacts and seeing the horror stories, why do teens continue to smoke?

Robin Koval, CEO of anti-smoking nonprofit Legacy, told Fox News, “Kids accept and know that heavy smoking is really, really bad for you, but what they’re not so aware of is that light and intermittent smoking is also really bad for you.” This makes sense. When the Obama Administration was rolling out the Affordable Care Act, one of the talking points staffers mentioned in every interview, and PR teams incorporated into every advertisement, was the idea of “young and invincible” millennials. The term is not meant to be endearing or uplifting, but rather to convince younger demographics that although their choices may not impact their health immediately, it will eventually catch up to them. The point Ms. Koval makes fits perfectly with the idea of “young and invincible” millennials, but it also raises a question worth asking: with current ads being aimed to directly contradict this idea, why is teen smoking still an issue? Are the advertisements really effective at persuading teens to quit smoking? Will there be a point when the advertisements reach their peak effectiveness and cease to be persuasive?

In a 2007 post on their website, the aforementioned anti-smoking nonprofit Legacy examined then recent CDC study results. “These findings mirror similar recent data showing that adolescent smoking rates are…flat-lining.” The trend has not changed since then.

So the campaigns are doing an amazing job persuading potential new smokers from staying away from cigarettes, but why have the rates flat-lined?

A recent study originally published in the journal Pediatrics offers new research that can hopefully help anti-smoking organizations develop their next round of advertisements aimed at a new target audience: parents. The study found that teens are more likely to take up smoking if their parents also smoke.

This would account for the flat-lining rates of teen smoking in the US. Teens who did not grow up around cigarettes are less likely to make the decision to try them, once they see the ads. But for teens who are used to the presence of cigarettes, the decision of them to take up smoking is a much easier one. This could be for several reasons. Perhaps the ads and their current “don’t try it message” simply doesn’t register well because teens very likely still have living parents that smoke. They perceive the ads as horror stories or propaganda, which limits their effectiveness. Or perhaps, and possibly more likely, teens who grew up with smoking family members are simply desensitized to the issue because smoking is a social norm they are familiar with. Regardless, these teens are not being reached by the current message the anti-smoking groups are sending.

So why not target parents? Messages along the lines of “children emulate what they see from their parents, so set a good example.”

If parents are convinced to stop smoking for the sake of their children, the “hereditary” state of smoking will cease to exist. Even if parents don’t completely stop smoking, perhaps the ads could persuade them to smoke far away from their kids – out of sight. Or if that doesn’t work, it could also remind parents to inform their kids from a young age not to take up smoking as they did, citing the dangers and inconvenience associated with the habit.

Maternal and paternal instincts are two of the oldest and strongest instincts we as humans have, and it is about time advertisements take aim at it. Smoking is not a hereditary trait, and the current transmission of this habit can be reversed with a well-coordinated and tactful campaign aimed to do just that.

McDonald’s “Signs” – Misplaced Outrage

By: Cody Church

On Jan. 11, during the Golden Globes, McDonald’s set free a new ad campaign called “Signs,” which attempts to convey the idea that McDonald’s restaurants are intrinsically linked to community and American society by showing pictures of the signs outside of their restaurants during times of tragedy large and small. The text on the signs appeal to traditional American sentiments like “Thank You Veterans,” appeals to local plight with “Keep Jobs in Toledo,” and references to national tragedies such as “We Remember 9/11” and “Boston Strong.” This ad comes at a time when McDonald’s stock is a huge mess and sales are down nationally. Being a publically traded company, McDonald’s is answerable to their stockholders, and at a time like this they really couldn’t afford to take a step back and hope for the best. However, the ad created considerable blowback on social media after it aired, claiming that McDonald’s is using national tragedy to drive up their sales.

mcd3

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that a McDonald’s ad campaign prompted a social media uproar. In October, McDonald’s began running advertisements on YouTube titled “Our Food, Your Questions.” The purpose of the advertisement was to dispel popular myth about McDonald’s serving pink slime disguised as chicken nuggets and show consumers the actual origins of their food. Once again, social media wasn’t having it, and it led to an extremely funny piece on John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight” that I probably shouldn’t hyperlink because of the language.

If it wasn’t extremely clear by now, this latest case spells it out in extremely simple terms: McDonald’s cannot bring back consumers through a social media campaign. I understand that it is tempting considering the massive reach of social media in today’s economic environment, but McDonald’s became a giant during a time before social media and has continued to globalize and spread its reach long after. It is also worth noting that McDonald’s has done a fantastic job of changing its image to continue its appeal to Gen-X’ers and Millennials. When I was a kid, their restaurants were based around Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals. Now, most McDonald’s restaurants are designed to look like internet cafes and offer a pretty wide coffee selection for a fast food restaurant. Presently, my demographic is concerned with eating healthy meals, organic foods, and vegetarian options. In this regard, McDonald’s has failed to keep up with the times; but all of this needs to change through the menu – not by running social media campaigns attempting to convince the public that their food is healthy and their restaurants are staples of American society.

That said, it would be disingenuous to argue that no one eats at McDonald’s anymore because their menu isn’t healthy. Their profit margins may be shrinking, but they are still staggering. Fast, cheap food will always be a staple of the American diet because a lot of Americans need fast, cheap food. I recall a time when I was kid when my mother, who raised me on her own, would bring home McDonald’s one a week because it was cheap, better than nothing, and most of all because she didn’t feel inclined to cook after working and commuting for twelve hours in one day. Studies are extremely clear in this regard – low income Americans are more inclined to eat fast food because it is cheap and available. As long as there are Americans living near the poverty line, fast food will continue to exist. Personally, I don’t see this as a problem.

The majority of social media activism is created by journalists or bloggers who don’t live near the poverty line. It is easy for them to discredit McDonald’s because they have never been forced to live in a situation where fast food wasn’t just an option along the highway, but to many Americans it was a part of life. This is what the “Signs” ad attempts to convey – that through thick and thin, better and worse, McDonald’s has been there and it will always be there. The reaction to the ad is undoubtedly based on your personal views of McDonald’s. I don’t believe the ad was designed to change that, but rather to reaffirm your current opinion about the brand.

All I ask is that before you see the ad and make the assumption that this is a tactic to capitalize on tragedy to increase sales, please recognize that to so many Americans, McDonald’s is not simply a restaurant, it is a safety net – one that we appreciate and cherish, even if we don’t personally enjoy the product.