Book Review: Improvise

51rpj75I2fL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Since graduating college, I’ve taken advantage of the extra time that used to be spent doing homework to read more books and learn independently. One of my goals this summer is to read more than 10 books ranging in various categories. After hearing great things about Improvise by Fred Cook, I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did. This book was both a quick/easy read and applicable especially at this point in my career.

Most typical PR books are filled with best practices and stories about the author’s most successful campaigns, but this book is different in that it’s more about Cook’s life journey. Rather than going down a straight path, Cook’s journey had many twists and turns allowing him to gain rich experiences along the way. Each point of his life taught him something valuable that would eventually lead to him becoming CEO of GolinHarris. Through his journey, Cook learned the importance of improvising and taking risks. While Cook’s jobs weren’t glamorous he learned key skills such as listening and learning how to fail.

In this section of the blog post, I want to note five key points that really stuck with me.

1. Try Something New
The only way to expand our knowledge is to try new things. Whether its reading a periodical we normally wouldn’t read or visiting a foreign country, escaping our comfort zone can help us grow.

2. Take Risks
If you want something – ask! What’s the worst that can happen? Sometimes we are afraid to hear no, but that may prevent us from life changing opportunities. It’s important to be bold because the possibilities could be endless.

3. Maintain and Sustain a Network
Whether it’s your parents or your teachers, connections can lead to new opportunities. No matter how great you are, you will need advocates and advice in certain situations. As cook says, you need to build your entourage now. Another important tip is to maintain your network. Don’t neglect your network or contact them during your time of need, but maintain your connections and build relationships. Also, try to find a champion – someone who will always defend. In Cook’s own words, “everyone needs an Al. Someone who will support you at work, no matter how badly you screw up.”

4. Solve Problems 
People who solve problems are highly valued because they are filling a need that no one can fill. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Instead of letting problems come to you, search for them and find solutions. Solving problems allows you to provide value.

5. Remain Calm 
We spend so much time worrying that we don’t enjoy where we are at. Life is about the sum of its parts so we need to relax a little bit.

A lesson in personal social media management

Social media blunders – it happens to the best of us whether we intend for it to happen or not. While we can study every case study there is, read all the books about the do’s and don’ts of social media, sometimes the best teacher is experience. This could not be more true for me as I made the biggest social media blunder ever since using social media (2008).

When I do social media on behalf of a client or basically anyone other than myself, I hesitate to post quickly. I make sure I’m strategic in my messaging, consistently fact check, anticipate anything that could go wrong and read it four to five times before posting it. Once a blunder happens, it’s out there for everyone to see. While I try to be careful when using my own account, I don’t take the same precautions as I would take for a client. I do anticipate consequences for certain posts, which is why I don’t post everything I feel, and I try to fact check as best as I can. I’ve even diffused crisis for two clients, but sometimes mistakes happen. You tweet a post you’re sure is correct, but it turns out you’re wrong and it’s too late.

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a Say Yes to the Dress marathon on TLC after a long day. One that intrigued me was with the Pittsburg Penguins PR person. She was getting married and brought along head coach Dan Bylsma (along with others) before a game with the Rangers. I assumed it was a playoff game against the Rangers, but turns out it wasn’t (yes, I was wrong). Anyway, during a Twitter conversation about the Penguins, I tweeted that the head coach was in an episode during the playoffs without fact checking the air date (another rookie mistake). Turns out it was filmed during a regular season game and I was dead wrong.When people say Twitter reaches everyone – it’s true! Turns out the PR person found the tweet while monitoring and quickly responded (as any person should when facts aren’t true). While, the conversation was between two people, in order to prevent a crisis, a response was needed especially since I was wrong. The best social media practice would be to diffuse anything that could potentially spread rumors. While it was embarrassing for me, had the rumor spread, it would have caused a PR nightmare for the organization.



I try to be careful when I tweet, but sometimes mistakes happen. If there is a lesson that I learned it’s that we can’t let our guard down when we tweet. It’s not just about being careful, but that we need to be as strategic when dealing with our own personal accounts as we are with a client’s account. We are dealing with a personal brand and mine just took a big hit. It also damages our credibility making people question your following posts. It may seem like common sense, but sometimes we want to quickly get the word out that we overlook fact checking without thinking about potential consequences. Sometimes, you don’t really intend for anyone to see it, or don’t think anyone will because you’re not as influential, but it’s still out there for everyone to see. I have read countless books on the “best social media practices,” but it didn’t hit home until today.

It happened, it’s embarrassing, but I just have to learn to learn from it, hope it doesn’t cause any problems for the organization and move on. It may seem like common sense, but never let your guard down. Anything can happen and the countless hours you spent building a reputation can vanish in seconds. Disclaimer: Names and hashtags are covered up to protect the people and organizations involved.

Book Review: Confessions of an Advertising Man

9781904915379-1I haven’t had much time to read for pleasure due to my British Literature class, but when I do, I make it count. Recently, I finished reading Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy during my trip to Chicago and I highly recommend it. This book gives advice on topics such as how to start an agency, run an agency, be a good client and tips on how to tackle several advertising mediums.

One of my goals for this blog was to write book reviews over books relevant to PR because not only will it help me remember the important points, but it will also allow you all to get a snip it to make you want to read it yourself.

The first chapter begins with Ogilvy describing his experience working at a restaurant and the valuable lessons he learned that he applied to his agency. He points out the similarities between managing a restaurant and an agency. Both require great leaders to manage everything from top to bottom. Ogilvy describes the qualities necessary to run an agency, such as delegating appropriately, the ability to deal with pressure, hard work, ability to find talent and train them (mainly creative people), as well as other qualities which you’re going to have to read to find out.

He also has a chapter dedicated on how to get clients. He describes the initial difficulty his agency went through because he didn’t have the credentials and history of success as other firms did. When his agency started, he initiated a plan such as meeting with reporters, made no more than two speeches a year, build valuable relationships with various people, sent progress reports to people as the agency continued to improve. At first, He took every account he could get, but kept his eye on the “big dogs.” He had to work harder than others to get respect, but it worked. Once he’s successful, he’s able to pick and choose which accounts he wants to take on. Ogilvy has 10 criteria that must be met before taking on clients. The following chapter discusses how to keep clients. One point that resonated with me is the effect of losing a client. What if other clients find out? They might begin to question their partnership. If it’s a high profile client, the media might report it making matters worse. What about jobs? Can they afford to keep the people who worked on that account? Those are topics to think about. Ogilvy provides four guidelines to decrease your chance in losing a client. He also discusses other issues relating to clients. He finishes the “client section” with a chapter on how to be a good client. In this chapter, he outlines 15 guidelines he would abide by if he were a client.

The next part of the book mentions various skills beginning with how to build a campaign. He talks about the fine line in being creative and disciplined when creating campaigns. He uses poetic rules and literary elements as an example. They have formal rules, but it still allows for creativity. There are three “schools” of advertising rules, but he states that he belongs in the third one: “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself. It should rivet the reader’s attention on the product.” (page 108). He also lists five sources to research such as mail-order advertisements, looking at campaigns from other companies and determining what was successful and what wasn’t, research done about factors which make people read and remember advertisements, TV ad research and picking the brains of predecessors and competitors. He then goes on to mention 11 commandments which he and his employers must abide by. His commandments are

  1. What you say is more important than how you say it
  2. Unless the campaign is built around a great idea, it will flop
  3. Give the facts
  4. You can’t bore people into buying
  5. Be well-mannered, don’t be a clown
  6. Make your advertising contemporary
  7. Committees can criticize advertisements, but they cannot write them
  8. If you’re lucky enough to write a good advertisement, repeat until it stops pulling
  9. Never write an advertisement with which you wouldn’t want your family to read (main point, don’t lie!)
  10. The image and the brand
  11. Don’t copy or plagiarize

To get a more detailed glimpse into all these points, read the book. 

The next chapter discusses how to write good copy. He mentions the importance of writing good headlines (which he provides 10 tips to make a headline strong) and body copy (nine guidelines for this topic). The following chapter describes the process of creating  advertisements and posters. Some key points in creating advertisements are using color, avoiding historical subjects, using photographs instead of drawings, avoiding closeups (but do show a face is possible), making the logo twice the size and keeping it simple (avoid crowds). He also provides 14 guidelines to increase viewership. He then switches gears to talk about posters. Never use more than three elements in the design and they are meant to be seen quickly. Use large fonts, preferably sans-serif. He also has chapters devoted to creating good TV commercials and creating campaigns for food products, tourism and proprietary medicines. He provides detailed guidelines on each topic.

He also has two chapters on how to rise to the top and a chapter questioning whether or not advertising should be abolished.

I give this book 5/5 stars because not only was it enjoyable to read, but it provided valuable insights on how to be effective in the advertising industry. His book is filled with many tips, so I definitely recommend everyone read it.

It’s time to strive for more PR pros

In three short months I will be in the real world and whether or not I have a job is yet to be determined, but I will continue to try and develop professionally along the way. When I do get a job, it’s important not to get complacent because it’s important for me to coninuously hone my skills and adjust to new trends. Based on several articles I read, here is my list of what I believe public relations professionals as myself need to continue honing:

1. Focus on writing!
This one isn’t really a new skill, but it’s one I always hear. While I’m not the perfect writer – I can hold my own. I have improved my writing skills immensely because I practiced and read often. As PR professionals we need to communicate succinctly.

2. Learn how to create and edit video
Telling stories through a written medium is important, but it’s just as important to tell a story visually. A picture says a 1,000 words and a video says more. As the world becomes more visual, PR professionals must have the skills necessary to reach their audience. If you don’t know how to use video editing software, YouTube is a good place to start.

3. Learn to code
Public relations professionals may not be asked to create websites, but they may be asked to override certain codes in WordPress or fix part of a website. It’s also a skill not everyone has, so it will set you apart from others. There is a great resource such as codeacademy which allows one to learn coding on their on through step by step tutorials.

social-media-marketing-statistics4. Embrace math 
I’ve heard the following phrase many times, “I got into PR to avoid math.” Well sorry to disappoint you, but your former math teachers were right – math is everywhere. As a PR professionals, we work with businesses and whether it’s a Fortune 500 company or a nonprofit, it’s still a business. In business the only way to communicate effectively is to speak in numbers. They don’t care what you did, they care about the results such as how many impressions the campaign received or how many sales it generated. Always think numbers and remember to analyze numerical trends to see what you’re doing well and what you need to improve.

5. Get out of your comfort zone when learning 
As PR professionals, it’s important to be well rounded because we never know who and what we have to work with. Additionally, the more we know, the more connections we can make to appeal to different people. During college, I challenged myself to take internships in different industries so I could get a feel of how each works. Working at a hospital is different than working with a technology firm, but there are certain connections that can be seen. If there’s a subject you don’t really care for, study it anyway – you may be surprised to find that it’s not as bad as it sounds. Remember be well rounded and don’t just stick with what’s comfortable. If I did that, I’d be pursuing sports PR, and I know that’s not what I should be doing right now.

6. Take initiative  
Learn. Learn. Learn. It can’t be said enough. If you can’t take a coding or a design class, the only thing stopping you from learning is yourself. There are many online resources that can help you. If you really want to be a PR professional, go after it!

Is anybody listening? PR pros pay attention!

Listening. It’s simple, yet it’s still an issue regardless of the industry a person works in. As I was driving to Waco, I realized how much I love my car and the process it took to get this car. Bear with me, I’ll get to the point in a second. When my parents told me that I was getting a car, the first thing that came to mind was fuel efficiency. As a broke college student, there’s no way my check is going to be spent at the gas station. After doing research, I knew what car I wanted – the Nissan Versa.

The Versa wasn’t pricey, had great fuel efficiency and enough storage for travel purposes. My dad and I went to the car dealership and I told the salesperson what car I wanted, but he insisted on showing me other cars. He even lied about some of the cars fuel efficiency. Fortunately, I had my smartphone and caught him in his lies. I continued to reject every car he showed me – especially the ones I knew we couldn’t afford.

After a failed attempt we went home and the salesperson wondered why I was so picky. My dad convinced me to go back, but I told him on the condition that he listens to me. We went back and the salesman continued to show me other cars. After being there for two hours, he finally said he had something else in store – it was the Nissan Versa. After an hour the car became mine. Had he listened, it would have saved him time and effort. Oh well … now you see the importance of listening to your clients.

What can PR professionals take away from this?
Listen to your clients, don’t just hear them. Understand what they really want because anything less than that does them a disservice. You get paid to provide the best solution to their problems and the only way to really understand the problem is to listen.

time_spent_communicatingAccording to research conducted by R. Adler, L. Rosenfeld and R. Proctor, people spend 70 percent of their time communicating, but only listen 30 percent of the time. Listening is how we get useful information to solve problems, so instead of spending your time talking, actively listen to your clients. The only way to fully engage with our clients or our audience is to actively listen to them.

I was reading an article on Forbes and there was one quote that stuck out:

“Most of us don’t really listen very well. Or if we do manage to listen, we are often just waiting until the other person finishes so that we can say what is on OUR mind.”

In order to listen effectively, we have to be aware of what is being said, analyze it and properly respond with a meaningful statement. This is the only way we can serve our clients effectively. If we fail to listen, we could waste our time solving the wrong problem like the salesperson did. The hours wasted could have been utilized for another task or project for the client. A client usually pays by the hour so it’s ethical to use any resource (whether it be time or money) wisely. Failure to do so could push your client toward the competition and loss of future businesses through word of mouth.

Enhancing your personal brand

As PR professionals, personal branding is extremely important especially when we’re looking for jobs. If we can’t brand ourselves, what makes employers think that we can brand their products or services? Throughout my college career, I’ve heard the expression ‘Personal Brand,’ so many times that it’s engraved in my brain, but it wasn’t until this year that I figured out what it meant.

One of my favorite quotes about branding is that it’s what people say about you when you aren’t present. For a product or service, its what consumers think of – it’s reputation. As aspiring PR professionals, we need to strive to build and maintain our personal brand.

Over the course of last semester, I began to think of branding as more than just aesthetics. It’s more than just a theme or a color scheme, it’s about you. Here are some tips to enhance your personal brand.

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My business card

1. Keep materials consistent
This summer, I updated my website to fit the audience I was trying to target. My previous website didn’t have the clean, sophisticated feel that I wanted it to have. Once I updated my website, I used the color scheme to create my portfolio and business cards. Having a common theme makes all your materials coherent allowing people to associate you with your products. It’s what makes you memorable. It’s important to note, usernames for different social media channels should also be consistent, so it’s easier for people to find you.

2. Think about your reputation
Your personal brand is your reputation; it’s what people remember you for. This means you need to be aware of how you carry yourself not only on social media sites, but also in public. It’s important to be dependable and reliable in your internships because your supervisor’s opinion matters. Your supervisors’ possible connections or recommendations can lead to bigger opportunities. It’s also important to note that employers do conduct reference checks, so you don’t want to get into a situation where your supervisor mentions your inability to meet deadlines or how hard you were to work with. Don’t expect your supervisor to lie, because he or she won’t.

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My LinkedIn Profile

3. Constantly update your information
Just as it’s important for PR professionals to keep up with the ever changing realm of the industry, your website, portfolio, social media channels, etc., need to reflect that. It’s just as important to update your LinkedIn as it is you website. Go back every once in a while to make sure your links work, add necessary work samples and remove content that isn’t as strong. Make sure all the information is relevant and updated. Just like you don’t want to work for a company that isn’t progressive enough, employers won’t want to hire people who don’t keep up with the times. Continuous updates not only show you’re committed to building and enhancing your brand, but also that you can be trusted with developing other brands.

4. Let your personality shine
Don’t forget to let your personality shine a little bit, but don’t forget your target audience. If you want to work at a innovative creative firm, you can add more creative elements, whereas a position at a corporate firm may require you to be more conservative. Even for corporate positions, it’s okay to add elements of your personality in your social media channels, website, blogs, etc., because you don’t want to appear boring.

Personal Branding can be seen as an indirect form of self-promotion. It’s a form of bragging without being obnoxious. Remember it’s all about how you want to be remembered.

Path toward my shameless plug

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde


One of the pictures from my past

Creating my shameless plug was an unusually difficult process. Two weeks before the due date, I went home and looked through some of the pictures from my past. There weren’t many available (mainly because some were left in Germany and I never wanted my picture taken most of the time anyway), but I had enough to work with.

Fast forward a week and it was only a few days away. While I worked ferociously to avoid an all-nighter it was inevitable that it was going to happen. The journey was quite a whirlwind.

Sunday Jan. 26, 2014 
On Monday I decided to plan out how I wanted the video structured. Little did I know without a song, it wouldn’t be successful, so instead I decided to look at what work samples I wanted to include.

Monday Jan. 27, 2014
I had an extensive scholarship application due the same week and a German exam the day after the due date. I also had to worry about the PRSSA induction ceremony meaning I had no time to waste. While I successfully finished my scholarship application and studied a little for my German exam, my shameless plug was forced to take a backseat. I did decide the shameless plug would go in my digital portfolio – right under my bio.

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The bio page of my website

Tuesday  Jan. 28, 2014 
OK, it was time for business. My friend and I went to the library and while she was productive, I sat by the computer comparing and contrasting song choices. This project made me realize how many mellow classic rock songs I listen to. After five hours my choices were made, and shortly after I called it a night. I also scanned photos earlier that night.

Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014 
Now it was crunch time. I had to finish my shameless plug, but before that I decided to take a nap. After I woke up, I felt inspired and began to work. All I needed was that one idea to jumpstart everything and it came at the right moment. Shortly after, I went to the library and began to work. I had all my materials and put it together. While I technically didn’t procrastinate, it felt like I did. Fortunately, once my song was picked, everything else became easier. I recorded my audio, pieced my pictures together and worked. At 4 a.m., I was finally finished. Enjoy! 

Guest Blogging and SEO

imagesSEO, SEO, SEO. It’s what everyone is talking about nowadays and with good reason. In addition to being a vital part of an organization’s marketing mix, SEO has a higher ROI than other forms of advertising and marketing. For these reasons and many more, SEO has become a trending topic as organization’s began to do everything possible to make their website SEO friendly. 

Recently, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam stated that guest blogging will no longer be a SEO tactic because it has become “too spammy.” Organizations abused the benefits that came with guest blogging and basically ruined it for everyone.

However, it’s all about content. This doesn’t mean an organization shouldn’t feature guest bloggers. Guest bloggers are still vital in engaging with your audience, but only if the blogger provides compelling content that people want to read about. Sometimes having a guest blogger can lead to refreshing posts that’s different from the organization. Generating irrelevant content to boost SEO is what upset Google. Readers should also be upset because if they take the time to visit a website, they should have access to meaningful content. Having guest bloggers for the purpose of gaining links doesn’t meet the audience focused approach Google stresses. The best organizations are the ones that put out content for their audience because readers will reward them through retweets, favorites, shares, etc.

Here’s the deal, don’t be spammy, because you will reap the benefits if you focus on your readers.

11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs

Content generation is expected to grow this year as people look out for more news. Great content is what keeps people coming back for more. 2014 is the year we expect content sharing to take off. With all the different mediums, it’s a great opportunity to share meaningful information.

Blogs are great ways for organizations to provide content for their audiences, but with the plethora of content, it’s hard for people to sort through the best ones. However, if you tell compelling stories or provide meaningful information, people will continue coming back. Below is an infographic of 11 essential items every blog needs.

11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs [Infographic]

Like this infographic? Get content marketing advice that works from Copyblogger. This post originally appeared on Copyblogger

Social Media Fun

2014 is now upon us meaning millions of people begin setting New Years Resolutions, myself included. One of my main resolutions is to blog more often, but another one is to enhance my digital presence.

Once can’t deny the impact social and digital media has had this year. From Twitter to Instagram, from infographics to video, the world is not only becoming more visual, but also more social as the two begin to integrate.

This year, not having a digital presence won’t cut it, not only does it hurt for SEO purposes, but also makes a company look like they haven’t adjusted to the times. The companies that thrive and survive are the ones that keep up with the latest trends.

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Social media provides a medium that allows people to engage with the brands they like. For example, sports teams do a great job of engaging people and making sure they provide good content for fans. The Baltimore Ravens do a good job of integrating images and graphics through social media, in addition to posting typical press conferences, speeches etc.

Their Christmas video was the perfect example. It was timely, funny and kept the fans entertained despite a difficult season.

Social media also gives the fans a voice to state their discrepancies, their opinions and thoughts.

Other times sports teams entertain their followers by making jokes or interacting with other teams. This season everyone knows how bad the Eastern Conference is apart from the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers (Atlanta Hawks are 18-14, so they have a winning record as well). Nets, who were considered to be a threat to the heat, have been horrid, the Knicks are having a down year, the Bulls lost Derrick Rose for the season and had to deal with other key injuries throughout the course of the season. That being said, the Western Conference has been dominant, so it was only fitting for the Portland Trail Blazers to crack jokes.

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 3.16.16 PMThis is the perfect example of giving fans great content. It’s a bit cold, but the truth hurts. However, the best part was when the Suns quickly jumped with a funny statement of its own. The Suns had a perfect response which the Trail Blazers responded with “well played.” The Suns aren’t a big market team, but that Tweet has allowed the Suns to get more attention then it normally would get.

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 3.13.11 PMThe Arizona Cardinals posted something similar a week ago when it needed to win AND a Saint’s loss to get the final wild card spot. Unfortunately, the Saints played the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where the Saints were 7-0 (now 8-0). The Buccaneers still responded with a funny response of their own which resulted in a few laughs.

Social media can be beneficial to any business strategy. Just like small market sports teams, one has to be clever and engaging. Once that happens people will follow and your brand will grow.

Until next time, Happy New Year!