Monday, November 3, 2008

Student Networking Cafe

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of attending the Student Networking Cafe. It is an opportunity for college and university students studying communications to attend a free information session to discuss options for students with the COO (Communications Community Office). It will be held at Ottawa University.

The COO is supported by heads of communications within 37 departments and agencies in the government. This makes it a great opportunity for students like myself who are working for the government, but not in a communications capacity, the ability to network in our field.

But probably the best part is that I get to go to this event, instead of taking my regular shift the government and get paid for doing so. Not too shabby. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Getting my PD on in the government

Today was my first time outside my office at my government job. They couldn't keep me there forever. I finally broke out. Well maybe it isn't the first time I have left come to think of it.

I do go out for lunch (well in the summer at least, weather is getting colder now) and when there were some issues with our pay, we had to go to another department to get that figured out. So I do enjoy some occasional freedom. But today was different type of adventure outside the office. It was a professional development (PD) session.

PD's, for those of you who don't know, are sessions where you gather people in the same field of work and present them with information that helps them get more out of their career.

This was my first PD session in the government. I had gone to other PR ones as part of being involved in CPRS. But this, much like the ones I went to with CPRS, was a great experience. They usually you are. However, it was especially good because it had a PR twist.

One of the three speakers, was a conflict management practitioner in the government. For all those wanting to do conflict management, listening to her would have given you a good insight on what it takes to get to her level. Her confidence when speaking was evident (work hard on your presentations in people!) and she dropped enough PR lingo to keep me fully locked in.

Obviously for me, her presentation was the best. The other presentation, which was the first, focused on work harassment. Looking at where I work, in an office setting where there is support about three distinct different groups working on the same floor, a very diverse setting indeed, knowing what constitutes harassment and how to solve it should issues arise, is differently a benefit for all of us.

The last speaker talked about the core competencies, or in plain English, a set of 9 specific skills that all government employee's should have and become better at using to fully maximize their potential at work. Examples include postive attitude and being able to use technology. It was refreshing to know that these skills I have mentioned above, as well as the other 7, are ironically ones the PR program here pushes as important. Definitely a nice fit.

Overall the PD was a fun time. I love PD sessions. They give you a chance to learn something new outside the tradtional classroom, while still having that same type of feel with people taking notes and asking questions. Doesn't hurt when you are getting paid a full day for going to one too...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Having fun in PR outside the classroom

So far much of what you have read about PR in this blog has been related to what I have learned from an educational standpoint in the field. However, there is another side to PR that I have kept from you. The lighter side of PR, outside the classroom.

Yes in PR it is possible to have fun. With so much time spent in the classroom, attending professional development sessions, and just beginning your day thinking about the various issues facing the world, in which PR plays a role, it would seem difficult to make time for a party. There are exceptions to every rule however, with last week's welcome to the program party being one of them.

The welcome to the program party is the annual networking event the PR program at my college has for first-year and second-year PR students, teachers and invited members of CPRS. It is a semi-formal (PR does lend itself to good taste, so dress appropriately) affair, meant to gather everyone involved in the program in an effort to make life as difficult as possible for the incoming first years.

Yes I am just kidding about embarrassing first years. Although their initiation to the program is a necessary component of their education, that is a process which will occur in due time. What the true goal of the party is to welcome them to the family of PR which our the program prides itself on.

So what is a good way to get to know your new family you ask? Drinks for starters is a must. Throw in a couple games, business cards, conversation and now you have the essential building blocks of fun PR outside the classroom.

The night was a great time. The room was full of energy. The energy of budding PR practitioners all gathered together, is definitely something I enjoy being a part of. The first years seemed very excited for their new career choice, something which they are only a few weeks into. As second years in the program, we are happy to have them join us and hope to help them in anyway possible as they start their career in PR.

With my second welcome to the program party in the books, it was refreshing to see so many new faces filled with such a genuine enthusiasm for the program. This is something I hope will only continue through their daily studies in the well as during the parties. Because we could all have a little fun in PR outside the least once in a while, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to school...PR style

I'm going back. After a summer of doing a variety of PR work through volunteering, and a full-time job, it is time to go back to PR in the classroom.

It is going to be an interesting year. I'm on a reduced course load, something which gives me more flexibility. Flexibility I hope which will allow me to gain more PR experience outside of class in the form of volunteering and working with CPRS (Canadian Public Relations Society).

Definitely should be a lot of fun...can't wait to get back in the daily grind of a PR practitioner. See you soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Government Job Search: Part Four

The wait to know whether I got the job was a long one. Of course it wasn't going to be any other way.

Although I was full of emotions, positive in regards to possibly getting the job, negative in the thought of not getting it, I remained determined to not rest all my hopes in this one opportunity.

In the event I did not get the job, a backup plan was needed. Just like many other students, money is tight and the summer gives you a chance to make back some of what was spent through the school year.

So with that said, I began my job search.

Since I have had extensive experience in retail, it is here where I looked first. I applied at many of the retail chains that where in the malls around town.

After receiving some calls back, I weighted my options. In the end though, I passed on a couple interview opportunities. I didn't really want to work in retail again. What I was doing was a silly process because I knew that I really wanted this job with the government. Nothing else was going to satsify me. I needed this new experience.

The days went by. No phone calls at all. I continued to work my other job, waiting for a call. I would not have cared if it was a rejection call in the least. My patience was definetely being tested to the fullest.

My call came....acceptance. I was hired. I was in. A smile quickly filled my face, energizing my body as I leapt in joy. My mom was in the house as I ran upstairs, bursting out the good news.

My mom was so happy that she lifted me up in her arms (something I was quite surprsied since she is quite a petite woman) and we celebrated together.

Exciting times for me and new challenges await for me. See you retail...hope you don't miss me for too long. I won't :).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Government Job Search: Part Three

The interview was nerve wracking. Primarily because of the fact that I had stayed up late the night before (yes dumb I know but probably because of playing video games the night before, much like the post found here talks about) and was feeling tired.

Nevertheless, it was I who chose to go through with the opportunity so I was faced with this reality and that was that. So, after boarding the bus and making the hour long commute to the interview, I arrived determined to make a mark on the interviewer.

But to my surprise, there was to be more than one interviewer. There was two of them. The job seemed to have slept from my grasp in that instance. Paying attention to one interviewer is more than enough. How would a sleeping sack of silliness like myself be able to follow two?

Well fortunately for me luck began to turn in my way with what happened next. Instead of drilling me with questions to open the interview, they asked me to write a memo. Phew. Definitely a break for me...or so I thought.

They gave me a hypothetical situation which was the topic of this memo (such as how to locate a missing file) and then gave me 30 minutes to complete this task and then they would be back. So soon I was left in the room, alone to work on the memo. I panicked. How was I going to write a memo? While I had written many for school writing assignments and volunteering, this was a job interview, with no room for major error or trying it our like in class.

After mulling over the task, staring at the paper and scribbling down what I could, I called them back to the room. I was so nervous that I had made two copies of the memo, one which I scribbled quickly and messily on one piece of paper and the other written in a nicer font of my usual standard.

However the fun had just begun. As a sat and waited to be indocterined by the interviewers, I felt nervous in my dressy attire. Although I had been in many job interviews (probably more than the average young adult) I was at the same time prepared for the basic line of questioning I would face.

The style of the interview was rapid fire from either of the two interviewers, who alternated turns asking one question each. My answers were not so rapid. I paused a fair bit, the tiredness in my eyes probably a dead give away to my readness for the questions.

They were however what I had expected. Questions were based on my experiences thus far in my working life, nothing hypothetical, all things I had gone through. Since I have had about 2 years worth in retail, a lot of my answers drew from that vain.

After about ten questions or so, I am not quite sure because of the lack of sleep, I was done and thru with the interview. I only asked one question which got misintepreted for me asking when do I hear back if I received the job. Not the perfect interview that I had been waiting for or imagained having.

At least it was done with. The wait to see if I got the job was now on...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Government Job Search: Part Two

The months passed by. I was getting very anxious. Since January, when I first applied I had heard nothing. It was mid May. All the effort in perfecting my resume, getting the right references, listing everyone of my accomplishments to date, was held in the balance on an online website.

Soon I would have to go another direction. It is never good to just hope for a job and wait for it to come to you and this is exactly what I was doing by waiting for this job. The time for me to go and search for a summer job, even though it may not be where I wanted, was growing daily. Until I got the e-mail and opportunity I was waiting for in late May.

The e-mail was very generic. It explained the five Ws of the job opportunity and not much else. I was excited nonetheless. Out of the hundreds if not thousands of applicants to the job bank, I had been selected by chance. Lucky for sure.

In the e-mail there was a link to be clicked on, should you be still interested in the job opportunity. I don't think I have clicked on anything so fast. Once my interest was confirmed I would be contacted at later date for an interview. Off to my interview then. Wish me good luck...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Government Job search: Part One

It is something that I have been working on for months. Dating back January of this year, I have been searching for a job in the government. To aid me in this job search, I turned to a great a PR mentor of mine, a professor in my school, in an effort to help me get the job. But would this be enough to stop my search and get a job with the government, or would this be another disappointing job hunt for me?

Unlike other jobs where you go and leave your resume on or, to apply, for my government job, I went online. It was here there was a database, which connects students to summer, part-time, and full-time positions with the government. So in January I posted my resume (filled with my job experiences in retail) to the database and waited for the results.

Before I got to this point of putting my resume in the database however, I was in class. With second semester underway and the summer still months away, I was looking for a job. The reason for this was I wanted a break from working in a retail environment. I wanted something different. A change of scenery in a work environment not in retail or even better, a job in the field of PR.

But this was something that I needed help in. I could not seem to put together a resume that would speak to these requirements by myself. So I turned to a trusted person with a vast amount of PR experience, one of my teachers at school, my PR mentor.

It is fully with my PR mentor's advice that I believe I landed the job. She was able to provide me with information of what I could expect in a professional interview, either with a PR firm or employer such as the government. By no means am I saying that an interview with a grocery store or retail store is not professional. I just mean that for a job with the government or PR firm, the preparation is similar but more advanced.

My PR mentor told me to research the company or government department (although this is hard with the government as they place you in a random department, not necessarily related to your field) to find out any useful background information. To listen carefully to the questions and speak to my experiences learned over the past semester in the program. She also told me what possible questions to expect (many of which were asked in the actually interview) and to let my personality ring through.

Would this job search end up being a successful one for me? Or would working in retail be the only reality for me during the hot summer months? I was soon to find out the answers to these questions

Thursday, June 5, 2008

PR Skill #1: Reading

Of all the PR skills that make up my PR Skills trifecta, reading is definitely the most difficult for me. I remember back in my youth going to the library with my three older siblings, coming back with maybe one or two books while they carried them home by the armful.

As a grew up, I never saw the value of lying down in my bed or on the couch with a good book. I was too busy going out playing sports with friends or playing video games. Although now I still enjoy the occasional marathon playing Call of Duty 4 on Xbox 360 or the day out in the park playing soccer with the guys, for some reason I have now made the time to read a book.

The reason for this is simple. To fully maximize my potential as a PR practitioner reading is vital, as it flows directly into what is one of the most valuable skills we must possess in PR, writing. In fact I was considering combining both reading and writing into one post, but I decided to differ, as I have much to share about writing that needs it own place.

So what turned on the light for me to embrace reading? Don't get me wrong I enjoy reading. I read the daily newspaper, sports magazines, and the like. But what I had never done since my youth till now was reading books.

Books give the PR practitioner more than just the day to day, current events knowledge that a newspaper provides, as they probe deeper into a particular subject matter. They are able to make you look at an topic and understand it in a way that you didn't think of before in an effort to increase your knowledge about it.

Now that I've cleared up my reading IQ, back to the reasons why I was able to get on the reading bandwagon like so many other of you hardcore book lovers. Firstly, the environment of readers that I'm surrounded by was a big reason for my change. It is sort of hard living in a family where reading is a top priority in so many people's lives.

However it is on the advice of one of my professors, a challenge in fact, that got me to gear up and really hit the books.

My professor gave us as a class a simple challenge for the summer. He wanted us to read. Read books about famous Canadian writers, like Margret Atwood or Douglas Coupland. Read books about writing, as he is a firm believer (like I am now as well) that your writing can improve drastically by increasing the books you read.

After mulling over these tidbits, I realized that this was my chance to do something. I wanted to try something to improve my skills, so I went for it, went to the library and took out a great book on non-fiction writing called On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

This book by William Zinsser, a former teacher of writing at Yale University, who also worked for the New York Herald, made reading this book a breeze by providing great examples of non-fiction writers mixed in which his clear and concise writing style.

By being able to read this book, which is highly entertaining as well as educational, I proved to myself that doing something I wasn't so into can actually happen...and work. Nowadays you will see me at the library picking up books for a nice afternoon read. Just don't tell that to my soccer buddies about this, ok?

Monday, June 2, 2008

PR tag

Playing the game of tag during elementary school days was a fun experience. I rarely got caught. It must have been because of my speed. Whenever there was a time I felt that I was in danger of a hand laying its touch on me, my speed enabled me to escape its reach. For me, playing tag was a youthful escape for me, a chance to roam freely, until I became "it".

Being "it" in the game of tag meant that now I became the one who had to chase the other school children across the yard. With the pressure of this task now focussed on me, suddenly the game of tag wasn't so fun.

The responsibility of chasing down 10 or more other kids, each running off in their own direction, was a tiring chore. Needless to say when looking back to the days in the yard when I was "it", I'm glad are over. But this game of tag was not done with me, with last week's time in the office full proof of that.

Most of the time at volunteering when I' m not in front of a computer, looking at the screen and losing my eye sight because of it, there is a black device I use for communication which occupies my time.

This device and I, usually get along pretty good. It helps me when I want to reach people in far places, while I return give it the utmost care that it deserves, there is no slamming it with me. However, it was on this occasion in the office where this device, the phone, and I would come to a blows. My patience would be tested through a game of tag, much like in my youth, leaving me frustrated as to where I should turn for relief.

At the sport association where I volunteer, we are currently conducting media tours country wide. A media tour is when you meet with editors, assignment editors in an effort to raise awareness of what your organization is doing.

So as an added responsibility of mine, it was my job to call the big well known media in Toronto (both print and broadcast) in an effort to try and book the chief of communications of our office (I like to simply call him chief), in our office as well as athletes which reflect our organization, in an informal meetings with these various media.

But I would be working with a hard deadline. I was to have as many meetings as I could book confirmed for the next day. With the afternoon sun already pulled in it was time to get to work.

When I got back to my desk, I jumped on the phone. My first call actually went quite well. I got a hold of the assistant to the president of a large broadcast media. I told her what we were trying to accomplish and we exchanged contact info, so the chief could go into more depth with her.

Not too bad I remember saying to myself. I was excited to be talking to someone so high up in the media. Little did I know that this would be the only excitement of the day.

Call after call, with nine in total that were made, went unanswered. I did whatever I could to get a hold of these people, spending a solid at the task. In the end all that I was left with was the drone of various voice mails, which I faintly can still hear ringing in my head. I was "it" in this effort to chase down these men and women of the media, and there was nothing I could do to catch them.

After these many unsuccessful attempts, I reported back to the chief. He was not surprised in the results. To him it was very much expected. Toronto, being the big city it is, mixed with the air of being the centre of the universe whirling around, probably played a role in my lack of success he thought.

To me it just reinforced what I have already known for some time. Being "it" in a game of tag can be a difficult proposition. But it's something that with perseverance and trying your best is all that can be done in an effort to win the game.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PR Skills

In an earlier post found here I talked a little bit about the role of a PR practitioner, basically what your job will be when you get into the working field. However, what I did not add in your role as a PR practitioner, are all the necessary skills you need to have to maximize your potential and get the most out of your career.

So what type of skills am I talking about? Well they are the basic things which countless teachers, parents, have tried to ingrain into our heads as being important, that we never took seriously.

Dad: Now I know you don't like to read like your brothers and sisters, but it is really a necessary thing. You don't want to be reading in newspapers about their success and not your own...

Or this one...

Mom: How are you doing in English dear? Remember writing is very important, I don't want my little one to fall behind. So will you be a dear and get started on that 10 page book report, you don't want to disappoint mommy, do you?

Now maybe a little of what Mom and Dad have said about these two skills, writing and reading, is a little exaggerated. That is for you to decide. This isn't a place to debate whether that is important.

What is important though is these two skills of reading and writing, along with the skill of listening, form what I call the "PR skills trifecta" (I think I'm beginning to take a liking to coining new phrases see "life at the desk" in my eariler post), three core skills that PR practitioners must possess, for him/her to really get the most out of their careers.

You may ask how I came across this "PR skills trifecta". Well to be honest it came to me quite naturally.

After thinking about what I learned during this past year at school, a very long year that included 7 courses in the first semester and 8 courses in the second semester last year, everyday my reading, writing and listening skills were strained to their fullest.

Now at the end of the year, I know my skills could be much improved. If you aren't constantly looking to improve, it is hard to stay pace in as the cliche goes, a very competitive dog eat dog world, especially the PR world, being competitive is undoubtedly true.

So with that said it is time for me to spruce you up your skills. I'm going to help you improve your PR skills by introducing the skills I think every PR practitioner should have, the skills found in the "PR Skills trifecta" (reading, writing, and listening) and my experience with these three skills and how they have helped me thus far in my career. Prepare to get mom and dad off your back for once...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Life at the desk

With a second month of volunteering soon to be concluded, I can officially say that I am getting the hang of it. Everyday I come to work with a fresh number of articles to read through, interpret, and judge accordingly. Most of time when I arrive, around noon, I get finished by the early afternoon, as the speed in which I can input the articles into the report has gotten much quicker.

But yesterday it was a little different. I was in the office till 4 p.m. Now four hours might not seem to be a lot to the seasoned volunteer, however for me being glued at a desk for that time I beg to differ. Don't feel sorry for me though (I already can feel the sympathy from here) because I could have taken a walk around the office, gone for a bathroom break or found some other way to break from my duties.

I had that choice and chose not to take one. This is because I was so focussed on my work, so into what I was doing that I felt what it is like for many of those who work 9-5 everyday. I felt what it is like to have your life at your desk.

Now what I mean by having your "life at the desk" is the idea that the work you are doing at your job takes a precedent over everything else, making anything outside of this work seem insignificant.

For me this characterizes exactly what yesterday was. The countless articles that I had to read, analyze and input (45 was yesterday's total to be exact) for this months report became my "life at the desk". I could not get away from them. They held me like cement, keeping me rooted to my chair.

Whether this is something that I look forward to next week is something I'm still not sure of. While not having the ability to leave something you enjoy is a good thing, there comes a point where breaks are necessary, just to let your mind relax and get back into the real world. Until next week, I might have a better idea where I stand...

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Boardroom

A heavy metal door, equipped with a key pad for entry, blocked me from entering the boardroom. How was I supposed to get inside? With the meeting minutes away and no tools to aid me to gain access such as a blow torch, crow bar, I was left helpless...or so I thought. With just minutes to go, the secret code was punched in by a member of the office, crisis averted.

When I started my volunteering I thought I would spend the majority of my time at a desk, on the computer doing hours upon hours of data entry. This is still the case. However, everyday presents new and exciting challenges so although it is essentially the same task, volunteering remains a fun and fulfilling experience.

An experience which got a lift this pas week, because in addition to my regular duties, I had the opportunity to sit in on a office meeting, in the boardroom. Not only was I sitting in on the meeting, but I had the responsibility of presenting the hours of data entry that I had complied in a report. So here I was, in the boardroom, sitting in a puffy leather chair, anxiously waiting my chance to speak to the other members of the office.

On the agenda, the presentation of my report was the third item. As I patiently waited to get called upon, I observed the discussion of the four others in the boardroom, members of the communication team at the sport association.

Aside from the occasional personal small talk, they were all business when discussing the items on the agenda. There was a fair bit of PR jargon, good thing I had kept up on my terminology through the year, nestled in between an easy going, professional business talk. Basically they talked like normal people but sprinkled in a little PR terms.

So after the two first items on the agenda quickly breezed by, if you could call over an hour spent on two items, I was up.

I opened simply with explaining what my role is and what I had been doing. This can be summed up as analyzing media outlets across Canada, looking at articles in newspapers, magazines, blogs and other publications that mention the sport association, with the help of some pretty cool technology of course. Then I would classify the article as having a positive, neutral or negative tone.

After I determine what kind of tone the article is, I rate it on five criteria, defined by the sport association, and see if the article has any of these five criteria. Once I have gathered all this information it gets put into the report, which leads me to its explanation in the boardroom to the rest of my co-workers.

As it turned out, explaining what I do to you turned out to be really not that nerve wracking. In fact, when I continued on with the actual presentation of the report, I felt even more relaxed. Relaxed enough to speak to everyone else in the room with confidence, something that I wasn't expecting in the beginning of this.

The boardroom at first glance seemed like an impossible situation for me to overcome. Being thrust in a professional meeting as an volunteering intern, I was intimidated for sure. However with a relaxed attitude and confidence in my abilities, I was able to come out in one piece. Perhaps the access code to the boardroom could be coming to me sooner than I think...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Volunteering...PR style

As a nice complement to what I have been learning in the classroom, I now have a volunteering position with a sport association downtown. Well I've actually had the position for over a month now but with the crazy ending to the school year, it hasn't become that relevant till now.

Although it is only volunteering, I was pretty surprised I got the position. I applied through the ever popular, on a whim, just looking for anything PR related, so I could get some experience over the summer. Luckily for me, I received a response, from the association and after a phone interview, sending over some writing samples, and an informal face to face meeting, I was in.

I love the work what I'm doing at the association. I'm working with cutting edge media monitoring software, developed by CPRS, which should become the industry standard in a couple years. As a student in PR, working with technology this new for the industry, is really cool.

Other cool things (wow I sound like a high schooler) are having your own desk, e-mail, and computer, your co-workers talking to you on a first name basis instead of "intern" or "volunteer", and being part of team in the office, make volunteering here fun and appealing.

Overall, this position has given me more responsibility and confidence of my abilities. It proves that I am able to step up and contribute to an organization, something which even surprised me at first. I was always confident in myself but when someone sees something in you and chooses you for the position, it makes you feel good. I never knew volunteering could be so much fun...can't wait to get back into the office tomorrow.

Monday, April 21, 2008

PR Issues

IOver the next couple weeks and into the summer, I will be examining current issues that are impacting society and how PR can affect these issues to possibly find solutions to them. These issues will be everyday things that affect many, if not all of us either directly or indirectly. For example the rising cost of gas.

I am not going to try and find solutions to world peace or anything. The issues will mostly be local in nature, focusing on how they affect our daily lives and what can be done about them. I hope that everyone can join me in this discussion which hopefully will be a thought provoking, engaging look into how PR impact the daily challenges that our society wakes up and faces everyday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The role of the PR practioner

As a PR student, if someone were to ask you what you are studying in school and you said PR, you would get many different responses. "PR is politics right?" or "PR is talking right?" or the most common "What is PR?" Well this is because what people know, the media knows, and the field knows (the latter I believe is correct) about PR are entirely different.

However, no matter what people think about what PR really is, it is important for you to know what your role is as someone practicing PR as a profession. This gets me to the very fancy term of "PR practitioner", something that in a few years I along with you will be (forgive me those who already are). By knowing what role you play in this world based on communication, the next time someone asks you what you do, you will look a little less red faced.

Public relations or PR, as it is more commonly referred to, is one of the most misunderstood disciplines. Many media types think a PR practitioners job is simply spinning stories, lying to the media, and saying the much overused but popular "no comment". They simply believe a PR practitioners role is simply to be a master spin doctor.

All of this could not be further from the truth. This is because what PR is really about is relationships. Not tragic relationships such as that of Romeo and Juliet, but relationships that are formed, maintained, and lasting. PR is about building relationships with your peers, journalists, upper management such as CEOs and CFOs and the big one...publics.

Publics are the key to PR. Publics are those groups of people who may buy products from an organization, follow the organization, or have just a general interest in the organization. Using Apple, as an example, you are able to see the different publics that can be involved in PR.

There are so many people who buy their products (Ipod, Iphone, Iwhatever), follow their organization (this can be done through the newspaper, or online media) and have a general interest in the organization (So when is the new Ipod coming out?).

As the PR practitioner, we are the ones who are responsible for communicating to these publics. This is done by targeting them with the right messages. Ok so I lied a bit. PR is just not about relationships and publics, it is about messages too.

Whoever you talk to, you want to have the right message(s) come across. In PR this is no different. That is why when you are targeting these publics, sending them the right message is critical. Empty words "no comment" do not qualify for sending the right messages. You have to see what your publics want to know and then come up with the right messages to send to give them that information.

When you put these three together: relationships, publics, and messages, you start to see the beginnings of what PR is and what you will do in your career as a PR practitioner. You will be forming relationships with people, especially publics, analyzing what these publics want to know, then communicating to them with the right messages.

In a nutshell, this is what PR the role of a PR practitioner is. But that's just scratching the surface. Once you make the jump into figuring out why it is for you and why that is, you will start to unravel the true power and role the PR practitioner plays in every aspect of communications. A role that seems to be growing and playing more importance each and every day.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

PR Issue #1: The Gas crisis

With the summer months looming ahead of us, many of us will be filling up at the pumps, gearing up for an escape on that classic summer road trip. Or will be? This is because of the gas crisis we are in. A crisis that is just going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.

I remember as a youth, joining my mom for the late night drive to pick up my sister from her night shift at a local coffee shop. With the gas station right beside, my mom would fill up for 53 cents/litre. That was is in the 1990s, not in the 70s or 80s. Today, you would be hard pressed to find gas less than $1.10/litre, more than double what it is today.

Rising gas prices is something that we all are going to have to get used to. If you think that the rise back in 2004, due to the war in the Middle East was an isolated occurrence, think again. Forecasts of gas $1.30, $1.40 and even possibly $1.50/litre for this summer are all possible figures.

While tension in the Middle East, is a reason for the gas pinch, countries that did not use gas as much are now using it more than ever.

Countries such as China and India being the two biggest examples, are moving towards the same type of of lifestyle, we enjoy in the western world. This is something that is definitely understandable, however as they make this transition, it increases the strain on one of the world's most precious resources, making it become thinner and thinner.

So with all of that said, it begs the question: what do we do now? Is it time to put all our faith in hoping that gas suddenly gets phased out by alternative energies, such as electricity, hydrogen, or solar power? No. We must find a new way to tackle the gas crisis, a new word, we must adapt.

As much as we hope, that by some miracle gas will go down to affordable levels for all of us it won't. Everything that is going on in the world (Middle East tensions, China and India's rise to achieve first world status, supply and demand of oil) makes it a safe assumption that the opposite will happen.

With this the case, there is still a lot we can do to adapt to this crisis which is affecting all of this. However to adapt, we need to have sound PR strategies, three key ones which I believe can affect the attitudes of everyone involved in this global issue to accomplish this.

It is foolish to suggest everyone will stop driving because of rising gas prices. With millions of cars on the road in Canada and the U.S., this is not realistic. This is where our first PR strategy to solve the gas crisis comes into play, driver education.

In terms of driver education, drivers must be aware that simple car maintenance, making sure your tires are fully pumped, not accelerating too fast, reducing drag by not having heavy objects ontop of your car, saves you gas.

Our second PR strategy, is public transit. Yes many of those who have been driving since 16, may groan at this idea, but if you look at the facts, public transit is on the rise. Here in Ottawa this is even more clear with the proposed expansion of our current transit plan, as the way to service this rising demand. If we can encouraging drivers that public transit is fast, and cost efficient option, the number of cars on the road would start to decrease.

The third and final PR strategy, I have identified to combat the gas crisis is rewarding those who purchase more fuel efficient vehicles by offering them tax saving incentives. So for example if future car buyers buy hybrid vehicles, which uses alternative energy such as electricity, they will receive tax credits. If people are still willing to drive cars, at least there will be vehicles which leave less of an environmental impact on our roads.

If we really want to combat the gas crisis, those who drive cars should be educated in the proper maintenance of their vehicles, to lessen the amount of gas a vehicle uses. We have to be aware of alternative methods of transport, such as public transit or carpooling, so that we can share the use of gas. Finally, for the category of drivers that will always be drivers, try and purchase smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. In return you will get more tax saving opportunities while saving more of one of our planets most precious resources, one tank at a time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welcome to PR ladies and...gentlemen?

Looking around the classroom it didn't take long to notice all the girls. Tables of girls, four to five of them sitting together chatting away. Flashbacks to high school anthropology class filled my thoughts. Having to present to a class full of girls as a nervous, awkward teen...not very fun.

Now by no way I am not trying to be sexist by saying this. I just need to get it out there for those of us who aren't accustomed to a big trend that exists within PR circles...there are women everywhere.

Our classroom is 83% female and 17% male. Sorry to throw out the percentages. PR people really hate math if you didn't know that already now you do. These numbers, are right on with the gender split for those practicing PR in working field, which is about 80% female to 20% male.

So what does it all mean? For starters, knowing how to adapt to your environment, any environment is key. Where would I be if I was still in my awkward shell? Freaked to death by all the girls and not in PR.

Secondly, when you are in a new environment, embrace it, don't run away from it. The PR person who has good relationships with all different types of people whether that be because of their gender or race or whatever, will go far.

Lastly, have fun. Being placed in new situations, although sometimes nerve wracking, present opportunities to turn them into fun, calming experiences. Don't grumble or complain about the situation your in without first trying to make it a little fun, so your personality can shine through.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why you, Why PR?

After finishing up my first year of pre media and communication, I was asking myself many questions regarding the program. Did I really need a high school review of sociology? No. Did I need to watch old sci-fi films at school when I could easily watch them at home? No. Was being a journalist or reporter even something I wanted to do? What I did know though was another year of the one year certificate, two year diploma program would be a waste of time and money. With all the different possibilities, questions, about what I wanted to do running through my head these were definitely confusing times. However, it was a media class, found in the odds and ends of this pre media and communication program, that would get me where I needed to be...get me to PR.

Media class was full of questions. Questions, questions, questions. We were questioned daily to exhaustion by the teacher. Questions to which I had no answers. I only wish I knew what I know now so I would have been able to give more answers and look less dumbfounded.

Although frustrating at times, what this type of class set up did was it gave me time to find out what I need to know, it gave me answers to my questions. Answers which I found when we were put into groups to complete a project on the many different parts of media. There were many choices, with TV and radio being the top for students in class to learn about. Luckily for me I and my 3 other group members we ended up with PR.

Now what is funny how it all worked out after the project. The next yr, I got into PR. The girl in my group got into radio broadcasting. One guy ended up in interactive multimedia. The other guy...well he ended up in you guessed it...pre media and communication.

The project was my first experience to what PR (public relations) was like. As a group of four, we decided to split up into pairs to research the historical and practical sides of PR. Me and my partner were chosen to do the practical side of PR. This involved interviewing two PR professionals at their work to see what a day in the life of a practitioner is. This was going to be fun stuff.

For the interviews we were able to get a women who ran her own PR agency in the heart of downtown and another who worked communications with a casino. They both shared something that I aspire to achieve, posh PR positions.

The office of the agency consultant was spacious and elegantly designed. When talking about her family, it was refreshing to hear that her job allowed time to raise a family, instead of take one away.

The casino women's job, while busy with updating website content, entertaining clients, and making presentations, nevertheless gave you the impression she has fun and enjoys herself in expensive pursuits.

Through these interviews, a ringing endorsement for me to jump into PR was made. The lifestyle of both women was very attractive (not just by the amount of money they made but in how having fun and family was incorporated their careers). The front line role they showed me that PR plays, in creating and disseminating messages was also attractive. Overall, they made PR look fun to me, which in turn made it a definite possibility for me to pursue.

After the project, there wasn't much left for me in my mind to decide. PR was my choice, sorry pre media, but there would be no second twirl around next year. Through this one class, these womens experiences in the field, and my intuition, I found that the questions of where I wanted to go were answered.

For me it was all about finding answers to my questions. This is the first step you must take to decide if PR is right for you. Ask a lot of my not find all the answers but you should find enough to at least try the field your in.

When you find these answers, you have to listen to your intuition. Go for it because it is better to have tried something then nothing at all. Follow that intuition of yours. Finally, when you go with it, put everything into making what you want happen. I wanted to put everything into PR, a decision that I haven't regretted since, a decision I hope everyone interested in this field will have a chance to make as well.