Posts Tagged ‘public relations’

Welcome, Interns…

April 19, 2010

It’s quite amusing to me that there is such a sudden outcry and debate over the fairness and legality of internships. Point blank: if I (and many others) didn’t have the opportunity to intern, there would probably be no Iza the PR Gal… it would be more like Iza the cook, or Iza the electrician (I was an “apprentice” with my dad throughout breaks in college), or even Iza the lifeguard going on almost a decade.  Ahem…

Although I loved and respected waitressing, lifeguarding and working alongside my father because I learned in all of these instances, I can wholeheartedly now admit that those things seem uncanny in my path of life.  The most important point however, is that I would never be able to realize this unless the businesses that took me in as an intern took the chance of teaching me the ways of their businesses.

So think about this: A professor makes a profit because you pay them to teach you. Why then, does a business owner suddenly have to pay an intern (aka student—all the same) when they are completely inexperienced and sometimes tough to deal with?

Not to sound like a broken record, but everyone has struggled in this tough economy and if many small businesses had to pay cash to inexperienced interns and dedicate their valuable, productive time—I believe that they would simply decide to not even deal with internship programs and this would be a disservice to the future workforce.

Bureaucracy has gotten in the way of the basic point of internships: to learn if a certain field of work is compatible with a student’s future ambitions. Even if you are a college graduate with a degree, it’s not like a business owner forced you to take the internship, you chose that path to learn. The piece below is taken from the Employment and Training Administration Advisory System from the U.S. department of Labor, included in the New York Times article, The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not by Steven Greenhouse.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has developed the six factors below to evaluate whether a worker is a trainee or an employee for purposes of the FLSA:

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;
3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

As stated in the article (I’m also not denying that some employers might take advantage of interns as a supplement to hiring a full staff, because I have heard horror stories from friends along the way), these six factors seem hard to misinterpret by the average person.

I believe that unpaid internships are completely fair, and students need to be prepared to sacrifice their few months and, simply, suck it up. Apprenticeships, internships, whatever you want to call it, have been around since the beginning of time. You signed up for it! As for employers, don’t make your interns get you coffee or clean your bathrooms because if you do—I can positively say: FAIL.

I’d love to know: What do you think of internships? Did you have a bad or good experience? What could have made it better?

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Are Embargoed Releases Dead?

March 17, 2010

Note: My first draft of this blog basically listed reasons why I think that the embargoed press release is dead.  After passing the draft around to get some opinions and edits, I was starting to hear, “Nicole, this is great, but I don’t really agree with you.”  So, here I sit with the second go at the entry… and I hope that it sparks some lively discussion from both sides!

When I first started my career in public relations embargoed releases were something that we discussed with clients and within our agency on, at least, a weekly basis.  In my first year of agency life I distributed five embargoed releases on behalf of clients with “breaking” news for next week.

Looking at public relations and the media today, are embargoed releases even necessary?  I think that they are less important than before, and here’s why:

  • Technology. In the mid 90’s email was just coming on line. Agencies used to fax or mail press releases to media outlets.  Publicists used to have to work the phones (gasp!) to pitch media, who were always on deadline and would be anxious to get you off the phone. Setting up a story and sources used to take hours (if you were lucky) and lots of coordination. In today’s world, use of email and mobile applications have sped this process up.  Most of my media contacts appreciate a well-written, concise pitch via email – NOT a traditional press release.  Response to the email can take time, but if your news is time sensitive (read: breaking news) you can reach the media quickly.  A call to the assignment desk if necessary, with a follow-up email if they have requested more information is easily done.
  • Social Media. Sure, it is great if you can get a network evening news program to break your client’s story – but if you are not getting the traction you need, you can break the news yourself via social media.  Stowe Boyd made the “twit pitch” popular. PitchEngine, made an easy platform for creation and distribution of social media releases (SMRs).  These are just two of the many examples of how you can get the message out to traditional and non-traditional press… and go direct to consumer.

Bottom line is getting the story out in a “controlled” way – avoiding information leaks before your client is ready for the news to break.  I have had experiences with a major news network jumping the gun by 20 hours and pushing my story out – Hooray! I got the press for the client, but we were just not ready yet.

So, what do you think? Are embargoed releases still an important way of how we do public relations today? Why or why not?

The Art of the Press Conference

February 26, 2010

Over the past two weeks there have been several press conferences that have drawn national, and in some cases international, attention.  Though there seem to be fewer press conferences called by companies than when I first started in PR, they still do exist.

Typically sensationalized or tragic news bring in larger audiences for media – so with that comes more questions and interest from media outlets to the parties involved.  The easiest way to disseminate information to the press? Gather them in one spot and talk to them.

In most cases, the talking heads of companies have been formally coached by their publicists to stay on message, communicate the prepared remarks clearly, and manage the questions/audience. For those who do not have to speak publicly or at press conferences often, this can be daunting.

I watched the SeaWorld press conference today with great interest.  Here is a really unfortunate situation that happened and now a well-respected company has to jump into crisis pr mode.  At the top of the conference, the press is told what the flow will be, how to obtain the written information and who will be available for one-to-one interviews post event.

And then Dan Brown, CEO of SeaWorld began to speak.  He made a brief statement and read prepared remarks from the victim’s family, and then opened it up to questions. Questions from the press ranged from soft balls (when would various attractions re-open?), to very pointed questions that were asked repeatedly in a variety of ways (is this same whale has apparently killed three other people?). Brown managed the questions well.  He answered each question, and for those that he was unable to discuss he stated that he would not comment on until after an investigation was complete.  His message was consistent and clear.

Of course, there are others in the media and the general public that think this event was a disaster.  But, purely from a pr perspective, it was a success: 1.  SeaWorld communicated their message clearly and, 2.  They have now set the stage for communicating out their findings after the investigation.

Kudos to SeaWorld and their PR team for handling a tough situation with grace and professionalism.

How Do You Self-Educate?

November 6, 2009

I have always been a big believer that you need to consistently be feeding your brain to be happy in life. I think most people feel that way.

When it comes to my career, I long ago realized that my education did not end when I graduated from college.  That was merely a starting point.  As a professional, I need to consistently educate myself on new trends, practices within my field, changes in business, etc., etc., etc.

Sure, in the past my employer has paid for me to attend seminars and get certifications.  The problem with most of those “educational” experiences is that you lose what you learn within six months.

When you are self-guided in your education, you are more vested. I also think that that is the turning point when your job becomes your career.  You see spending time outside of the office on this type of education as an investment in yourself.

At this point in my career I am still working at it.  At the moment I am reading and studying the ever-changing world of social media. I am also reading up on sustainable business and corporate responsibility.

What are you working on?

Press Releases of the NOW

October 9, 2008

So I promised that my next blog would get away from social marketing and focus more on PR.  Well, I was half telling the truth!

Social media releases are kind of becoming a buzz topic in the industry.  As PR starts working more hand in hand with social marketing, and the media is crossing over its traditional lines, the way PR professionals pitch and communicate with the media is ever changing.

Wire services are offering online components for distribution of press releases.  They distribute the release both by traditional means of blasting the information out to newsrooms and now also offer a service of making your news more “social” or “viral.” PRWeb is a good example of this.  When they distribute your release they also include distribution to online news sites, like Google and Yahoo. Your news becomes searchable by being listed both on their own newsfeed site and on these online sites.  There is a cost to this, and depending on the service and distribution you choose, it can cost anywhere between $250 and $800 or more.

Pitch Engine allows you to build a social media release for free, online. PR pros are using this new to and various ways. Some are posting the information and letting it become discovered by the journalists who search the site.  Others are using it as a means of distribution.  At PMG we are using it to help distribute our information.  We build the social media release, upload the images, links, and all other information and then get the assigned URL for the release.  When pitching reporters we offer the link to them to obtain the additional information.  In our view this is valuable for the media and PR people alike, as attachments to emails can get caught in spam filters and it is just a one-stop shop for all of the information needed.  The other great feature: the quick pitch! Basically, this area has you create a 115 character pitch about the release.  Talk about useful! We can use this on Twitter, as a start to some of our email pitches… the list is endless!  Our thanks to Jason Kintzler for developing this tool.  It has changed the way we pitch and distribute our information, not to mention… we think it is really effective.

Micro-blogging your pitch can be effective – if you have the right people in your networks. This is along the line of a TwitPitch or a Quick Pitch. You boil your pitch down to 140 characters or less and post it on Twitter or in your “what are you doing” section of any social network you belong to.  Your network then and see what your news is.  Be sure to provide a link to the full release.

Sure, keeping up with it all is a bit cumbersome, but, with our ever-changing world it is necessary.  You really want to continue to reach our traditional outlets, but at the same time embrace the new media.  Keep in mind that some some “old school” outlets like the New York Times have online editions as well.  These online editions sometimes can yield better placements… they certainly are trackable by looking at your click throughs!

Happy pitching,

Nicole

Don’t Push Me!

August 6, 2008

There has been a lot of discussion about how to distribute company press releases now and there has been much debate.  In fact, there are even blogs written about bad pitches and pr firms that have mis-stepped.  Hey, it happens from time to time.

So what is the best way to get your message and news out there?  Do you push it through mass distribution of a press release or do you go the pull method – pitching your story to each and every media outlet on your list?  Well, I think a bit of both.

Times are changing and the way we used to kick it old school and do mass blast faxing to media outlets is gone.  But you should kick it old school and K.I.S.S – send short pitches to targeted media – but only after you have done your homework on said journalist.  Have you heard of the Twitter pitch?  Basically it is pitching your story in 160 characters or less.  If the journalist bites, then send them the press release.

“But, Nicole, that will take a long time for that kind of initiative!”

Yes, it probably will, but your results will be worth it.

Looking forward to seeing you in print,

Nicole

Save My Manolos!

June 2, 2008

I went to pick up some shoes that I had repaired this weekend at the cobbler.  While I was chatting with the business owner, we started to discuss how the art of shoemaking and shoe repair is dying. 

Crap!  Who is going to put new plastic tips on the heels of my favorite pair of C. Labels or put one of those sole strengtheners on the bottom of my Manolo Blahnik’s? (For the record – I have no idea what the technical terms for these things are that save my shoes – just that they do!)

Driving away from the shop, I got to thinking.   Who is in charge of PR for the cobblers of the United States?  Clearly there is one big missed opportunity here!  With the box-office smash hit “Sex in the City” just out this past weekend where the characters are known for their expensive and fabulous footwear as well as the continued concern about rising gas prices and recession, timing could not be more perfect!

There is in fact, an association for cobblers and shoemakers called the Shoe Service Institute of America.  Not an easy group to find; they do not appear easily in a Google search of cobbler associations in the United States.  This is a public call to all shoemakers and cobblers associations… please invest in some PR!!  Strike now – the iron is hot!!

My goal is perhaps self-serving.  One, I get to write about what I know – PR.  And two, maybe a little pr push will help more people enter into this noble and worthwhile trade as a demand will be created for the service.  On a socially responsible front, we change out our shoes too often, hopefully donating them to charity… but chances are too many shoes that still have sole get tossed. 

At PMG, this is what we call being opportunistic.  If you are indeed a member of the Shoe Service Institute of America, give me a call, I will strike you a hell of a deal!

Think you have a story that could help boost your bottom line?  Flush it out and call your media friends… you might just find your company on the front page of the paper!

Well heeled,

Nicole Ravlin