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.