By Talia Smith
I’m going to be honest; I’m a total Podcast geek. But can you blame me? Podcasts are revolutionizing the way we consume information. First of all, they’re free. There are thousands of Podcasts to listen to in just about every category and they can be download directly to your smartphone. Second of all, they’re great for multitasking. Podcasts are perfect for anyone looking to learn more about any given topic but lacking enough hours in the day to read a magazine or a newspaper. You can learn something new from a Podcast while simultaneously cleaning your room, exercising, riding the bus or walking across campus to your next class. Personally, I love to learn more about the world of business through Podcasts.
It’s no secret that PR professionals need a business mindset in order to succeed in the industry. In fact, many PR majors start out as business majors and many PR majors choose to minor in business. I don’t fall into either of those scenarios, which is why I use Podcasts to learn more about the related field. For those like me, who want to know more about business, but don’t have the time to pick up Bloomberg Business Week, head to your Podcast or Stitcher app and subscribe to these 4 shows:
Freakonomics will help you rethink the dreaded economics requirement in the SOJC curriculum. The show uses economics to answer quirky sociological questions such as: Should Kids Pay Back Their Parents for Raising Them? How Much Does Your Name Matter? And Why Do We Really Follow the News?
Freakonomics is a must-listen for PR pros because of its array of topics and self-improvement episodes which provide a window into the study of incentives backed up with economic statistics. When you have a better idea of what makes people tick, then you can be successful at selling yourself and a brand you may represent. Many of the findings are surprising which why it is the kind of show you can’t help but share with others.
Listen to Episode: How to be More Productive
Learn about the eight steps to a more productive work day. Here’s a hint: motivation, focus, goal-setting, decision making, innovation, absorbing data, managing others and teams. Check out this episode for more context.
If you like the TV show Shark Tank, and are interested in how modest people grow successful companies from the ground up, then you will like How I Built This. You will hear interviews from millionaires and billionaires talking about how they overcame obstacles and filled a gap in the market with brands such as Patagonia, AirBnB, Spanx, Cliff Bar, and Southwest Airlines. These entrepreneurs became successful because they were able to effectively promote themselves and their products. Listening to their advice will offer insight into promoting a brand, starting a business and the tenacity required to do so. It is helpful to learn about the homemade PR that goes into the success of these companies.
Listen to Episode: Warby Parker: Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal
The founders of this discount glasses company used their PR skills to barter with their supplier for inventory. You’ll see how it pays off to be skillful at both business and PR.
Planet Money offers a powerful punch of all things pop-culture in the business world in just 15-20 minutes. Listening every week is a great way to stay on top of business news headlines while learning something new and interesting each time. Since I started listening, I feel more in-tune to major business news stories such as Brexit, the Wells Fargo bank scandal and oil prices which I might not have paid as much attention to if it weren’t for the podcast’s excellent storytelling. Planet Money has the ability to take these topics and create a capitating and informative audio story.
Listen to Episode: #729: When Subaru Came Out
Subaru was facing an identity crisis back in the early 1990s and it wasn’t until they received help from a small ad agency that the car company was able to subliminally become the America’s hip and outdoorsy car brand.
Marketplace is a daily rundown of everything that is happening with the economy and stock market. Sounds boring, but I promise it is not convoluted. Hint: When they “run the numbers,” upbeat background music indicates the stock market is doing well whereas background music in a minor key means stock prices have dropped. Especially when working for a larger company, it is important to know the basic concepts about how the stock market functions.
Listen to Episode: You know what, just download the latest episode. Listening to marketplace is like listening to the news and you’ll want to listen to the most recent one.
If you’re looking to know more about the business world than listening to these podcasts is a convenient way to stay on top of current events and business trends. Public Relations and business go hand-in-hand and you will benefit from being knowledgeable about both. Next time you are washing your dishes, pop on a Podcast and see what you can learn about business.
By Erica Freeze
It is that time of year again, the season of travel! As the holidays quickly approach, many of us are eager to travel the world during winter break. If you are someone who loves to travel, don’t rule out one aspect of public relations that is less spoken of- travel and tourism public relations. Travel public relations’ role typically consists of three major tasks: stimulating the public’s desire to visit a place, arranging for travelers to get to their destination, and ensuring a comfortable stay for visitors once they arrive. While the aspect of traveling in this field may sound appealing, keep in mind that this is only a small part of the job. In any public relations career, you must be on top of the latest trends and news and be ready to tackle any crises professionally. If this sounds like something you may be interested in, here are some tips to see if this is the right career path for you:
Have an industry mindset:
As previously stated, keep in mind that working as a PR professional in the travel industry requires more than just a love for travel. Ask yourself: Am I genuinely interested in the travel industry?
Do I enjoy reading articles about travel trends? Following travel blogs? Am I aware of successful travel campaigns?
Am I prepared for crisis management involving the safety of travelers?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, then travel public relations could be your forte.
Get ready to pitch:
The public relations industry relies on publications to get the word out about the clients they represent. In travel public relations this is the same. Many travel public relations firms use bloggers and magazines to promote the services their clients provide. Getting a blogger to agree to post about any of your clients can be a challenge, however, there are certain ways to go about pitching that will help you be successful.
Often bloggers will provide guidelines on how best to pitch to a particular publication. These tips are important to read and adhere to and can create more success for your client.
Also keep in mind that bloggers and all publications seek unique and interesting stories. Only contact them if you have material that is news-worthy and will capture the reader’s interest. For example, if a hotel has recently hired a new critically acclaimed chef who serves up a variety of delicious dishes, then one may consider this newsworthy.
Know how to handle unplanned situations:
Crisis management is a critical part of public relations in the travel industry. A lot of things can go unplanned and some of these things are beyond your control. There can be poor weather conditions which delay transportation or misplaced luggage. Treating travelers well is extremely important in the travel and tourism industry. Travelers have the ability to build or tarnish your company’s reputation with reviews and through word of mouth. Even the best arrangements for guests can fall through and it is best to handle these situations professionally and with care. Being in communication with hotel and travel destination staff to ensure the proper handling of this situation is crucial. If something doesn’t go as planned, staff should be ready to treat travelers cheerfully and with respect to make them feel comfortable and happy. As a public relations professional, it will be your job to convey the importance of a good attitude to travel destination workers and to the clients you represent.
One example of a well-handled crisis in the travel industry was when Carnival Cruise Lines had a series of high profile incidents in 2012 and 2013, including the sinking of the Costa Concordia that resulted in the deaths of 32 passengers and the infamous Carnival “poop cruise.” Because of these incidents, Carnival bookings disappeared, proceeds dropped and the reputation of the corporation suffered. To combat this serious crisis, a new leadership team was put in place and the corporation brought in public relations professional Roger Frizzell as Chief Communications Officer to help recover the company’s reputation.
As you can see, travel public relations is complex. Travel public relations professionals need to ensure that the clients they represent have safe practices and facilities and that all travel staff are professional. In this industry you need to always be aware and ready to combat any crises. Do you think you have what it takes to take on a travel public relations profession? Get in contact with some professionals in the industry to learn more!
By Talia Smith
As Thanksgiving weekend and holiday break are upon us, I think we can all expect an inevitable conversation with a relative that goes something like this:
Relative: How’s school going?
Me: It’s going well, Aunt Maureen. Thanks for asking.
Relative: What is it that you study again?
Me: Public relations.
Relative: Public relations? What’s that?
Maybe it’s just me, but at this point, I am racking my brain for the right words to articulate what exactly PR is. It is hard to summarize the whole industry into a few sentences because each sector of PR is different and the field is changing every day.
I realized after providing a not-so-great answer to a family member that I really should have a few sentences prepared about what I do. Then I remembered there’s a professional concept called an elevator pitch which is a 30-second opportunity to tell someone what you do in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
In preparation for the holidays and the get-togethers that come with it, I encourage aspiring PR pros to create your own PR elevator pitches. Holiday gatherings are an excellent opportunity to test run your pitch in front of a forgiving crowd so when you find yourself in an elevator with an executive seeking PR assistance, you’ll be able to eloquently communicate your message.
To help you get started, here are a few examples about how to construct your own PR elevator pitch. Let’s assume someone asks, “What is PR?”
Provide a general definition and an example of what PR professionals do.
According to the PRSA, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” This definition is a great starting place for your pitch but you’ll want to customize it to your own voice.
Public relations is a strategy brands use to communicate with their audiences.
Public relations professionals think of creative ways to help clients reach their audiences.
Public relations helps companies build relationships with the people who make the company successful.
Public relations professionals work with media outlets to share their client’s story to the public.
Follow with a casual, attention-grabbing statement.
You don’t want to pepper your pitch with industry-exclusive jargon. That’s a surefire way to receive glazed over eyes and the classic “I have no idea what you just said so I’ll just nod my head.” Keep it simple and use relatable words.
We do the behind-the-scenes work to help companies shine in the media.
Just like the name suggests, we help companies relate to the public.
We are like storytellers but for brands and organizations.
We take elements from advertising, journalism, and marketing to create a plan to help companies succeed.
Narrow in on what you would like to do in the field of PR.
Now that your listener knows what PR is, tell them what it means to you and how the definition relates to your aspirations.
One day, I’d like to help nonprofits spread their message in order to raise more revenue.
I want to be a bridge between the scientific community and the public.
I want to work exclusively with food and beverage PR to make sure my clients’ products end up in your refrigerator.
I’d like to use my love for writing to help brands get their message out in creative ways.
This holiday season, don’t panic when a relative asks, “So, what do you do?” Taking the time to create your own PR elevator pitch will not only help others understand what you do, but it might even help you better understand what you do or want to do. Make your PR elevator pitch your mantra and hopefully one day you’ll be reciting it to your future employer in an elevator and not to your Aunt Maureen as she passes the pumpkin pie.
By Erica Freeze
Broadening your professional network is essential for a smooth transition into the professional world. Your time in college is crucial for connecting with professionals and exploring possible career paths. So how do you meet potential employers? Here are four ways to get your foot in the door:
Join a career building group on-campus:
Student organizations across the country provide students with a variety of ways to network and meet new people. There are several on-campus clubs that can help broaden your professional network which includes: The International Business and Economics Club, Independent Society of Campus Journalists, UO Toastmasters, the American Institute of Architecture Students, and PRSSA. Many of these clubs bring in professionals to their meetings who give advice on how to succeed in a specific career path. The UO PRSSA chapter invites PR professionals bi-weekly to present at chapter meetings. These meetings can help you network and discover potential firms you might be interested in applying to after graduation.
Utilize the Career Center through the Professional Network:
As an enrolled student, you have access to a professional network through the Career Center. To gain access, you must complete an online networking workshop and quiz, and the login to your Duck Connect account. The Professional Network consists of UO alumni, parents, and friends committed to supporting you in exploring different career paths and preparing you for the working world. Browse various profiles and reach out to those who have a career that interests you in the professional network. If you gain a contact, ask if you can receive an onsite tour or set up a job shadow. This network is a great resource for engagement because all professionals in the network have agreed to share their time and professional expertise with UO students.
Connect with your instructor:
Many of your instructors have great connections in a variety of industries. Your instructors want to get to know you and help you succeed. Get to know your professors and see what realm of public relations each one specializes in. If they have similar interests to yours, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. They also still keep in touch with past students who have entered the public relations industry and can connect you with them. Instructors will often invite professionals into the classroom as well, so feel free to ask questions in class!
Set up an informational interview:
Before reaching out to a professional, look into a company you are interested in and research who they are, what they do and what they support. Once you have some knowledge about the company, ask the professional if they are willing to speak with you. Schedule a time that works for both of you, and be prepared to ask questions about their daily life at the company, any projects they are working on and the office environment. Remember that informational interviews are different from job interviews and that they do not guarantee a job.
Connect with professionals on LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for connecting with employers. If you don’t have a LinkedIn it is definitely time for you to set one up! Take the time to tailor your profile to show potential employers who you are. Many companies are on LinkedIn and you can narrow your searches by location, industry or job openings. LinkedIn is a great way to follow the employees at the companies you are interested in. You can message professionals on the platform and inquire about informational interviews or ask simple questions.
These are just a few ways to broaden your network. What are your tips and tricks for meeting potential employers?
By Talia Smith
Last year I was living in Portland, dead in the middle of a PR internship search. I applied to companies of all sizes – large corporations such as Edelman, midsize agencies such as Matter Communications, and small, boutique firms where I found the most success. When I shifted my attention to smaller firms, I noticed actual people were picking up my phone calls and responding to my emails.
Three interviews later, I landed an internship at Veracity. The boutique PR firm is owned by Amy and Mike Rosenberg, both UO alums. Their quaint office is tucked away in the stylish Bakery Building in Northeast Portland. For six months, I worked side by side with Amy and Mike, trying to soak up their knowledge about the field of PR.
One of the many things I learned during my internship is bigger is not always better when it comes to employment. I encourage anyone in my similar situation to seek out a boutique PR firm to intern. Here are four reasons why:
You can create meaningful relationships with your mentors.
When you work closely with your employers, you can’t help but get to know them on a deeper level than you otherwise would at a large agency. You have an ability to shine and be seen since, well, there are not as many people in your way. At a large firm, you won’t have the ability to interact with the president of the company on a daily basis. After producing good work and proving yourself to be a valuable intern, you can be assured that you will always have a great reference, letter of recommendation and networking connection. It is wonderful to have someone you can count on to speak highly of you.
There is a likely chance your internship will turn into a job.
All the lovey-dovey stuff aside, PR firms invest a lot of time and energy into their interns and they want a return on their investment. It is in their best interest to hire someone full-time who already knows the ropes of the company. Why would they want to hire someone in need of training when they could hire someone who has already been trained? Larger firms have more funds to test out interns whereas small firms won’t take on anyone who they can’t see working at the company in the future.
You might work directly with clients and media.
With the intimacy of a boutique PR firm comes trust and responsibility when it comes to client and media relations. You cannot necessarily say the same of an entry level position at a large firm. There is no better way to tighten up your email and phone etiquette than calling up a client or reporter on a regular basis.
When you communicate with reporters regularly, you create media relations that carry with you to your next job. Reporters tend to pick up press releases from familiar writers who take the time to understand their beat. A large portion of my internship was customizing emails and matching press releases to the right reporters. At larger firms, media relations can turn into spam at times with automated email pitches. Learning the essential skill of client and media communication is valuable.
You will have the opportunity to create tons of portfolio pieces.
Nothing looks better in a portfolio than an actual writing sample used by a client. In smaller firms, there is plenty of work to go around and a lot of it will fall on you. There is a good chance that you will have the opportunity to write pieces that end up in newspapers, magazines, blogs or social media posts. The work you produce is real and holds weight in a portfolio over something written for a school project. There is more work to dish out to other people in larger agencies but you have to be more of a jack-of-all-trades in a boutique firm – the result will be an array of diverse profile pieces.
As you’re starting to think about summer internships, I recommend starting your search with boutique PR firms. Be aware that many small firms do not post internships online – it’s up to you to create your own position and pitch yourself. This is really only a possibility at boutique firms.
Start by researching and making a list of the firms in your area then give them a call. Once you get someone on the phone, ask if they would be interested in hosting an intern. Practice your pitch and make it direct. Either they will say no and you can move on to the next firm on your list or they will say yes and ask you to send your resume. Make sure to remember the name of the person you spoke with on the phone.
Take some time to research the firm and create a customized cover letter. Then compose an email saying, “Hi, I spoke to so and so on the phone and they told me your firm might be interested in hosting an intern.” Attach your cover letter and resume and wait for a reply email or phone call. I guarantee, there will be a few firms who never invited the possibility of hosting an intern until it was presented to them. Who doesn’t need extra help and cheap labor?
Take control of your internship search by narrowing your choices to the boutique PR firms in your area. It worked for me and it will work for you too. The skills and hands-on experience you will gain in a boutique PR firm could land you a job with the company or act as a stepping stone to your next exciting career move. You know what they say: good things come in small packages.
By Erica Freeze
In today’s technologically advanced society, more companies are incorporating social media into their marketing and communications plans. For a company’s social media platform to gain attention, strategists should devise a social media plan. Every interaction that is made on social networks should work towards the organization goals. The more time and effort spent on a social media plan, the more effective it will be in its implementation. If your employer asks you to generate a social media plan, here are five ways tips to consider to ensure its success:
Step 1: Define social media objectives and goals
Establishing plan objectives allows you to make changes to your social media campaigns and platforms if they are not coinciding with your goals. Goals need to be established to gauge the overall success of the campaign. When setting your campaign goals, think of the acronym, “S.M.A.R.T.” This acronym is a great way to remember that your goals should be “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.” Some examples of goals may be: increasing company awareness, increasing sales or increasing visitor loyalty. The goal is important to establish because it is the driving force of a social media plan.
Step 2: Conduct a social media audit
A social media audit is a process of analyzing what is working and what is not across your company’s social media platforms. When first starting your audit, take note of post frequency and follower interactions on each channel. From this, you can compare how your numbers change each month or each year. You can determine which platforms are worth keeping, enhancing or disregarding.
Step 3: Construct a content strategy
Creating a timeline and planning the content to post is helpful in the organization and originality of each platform. Cater your content to your company image, your audience, and the platform. An example: Should we post something funny or more serious? Should a video or a status be posted? Once your content is established, you can decide how frequently to post it on each platform. There are many studies that provide useful information about optimal posting times for each medium. Finding the perfect frequency to post can generate more engagement for your content.
Step 4: Engagement
It is important to see how your followers engage with your content on each platform. Keep track of how well each post is doing on likes, shares, and comments. Be on top of both negative and positive feedback. Instead of deleting negative comments, try to turn the customer’s perception around with positive advice and understanding. Showing that you care about your customers on social media can attract more followers and enhance customer loyalty.
Step 5: Evaluate and Alter your Plan
After you have implemented your plan, you should watch for what is working and what is not. You can use an analytics tool such as Google Analytics to provide data on website traffic. Once you see which content is driving the most traffic, you can apply this awareness to new posts. Because social media is constantly growing and changing, it is important to frequently analyze your successes and failures. From this, you can reconstruct your social media plan to best benefit your organization.
By Lily Gordon
Wedged between the Volcanology building and Lokey Laboratories in the heart of the University of Oregon’s Science Complex, Willamette Hall is not where one would just happen across a Public Relations or Journalism major. In the echoey atrium, students studying Physics, Computer Science and Math can be seen, heads bent over thick books and flashing screens. Willamette is the nucleus of the Physics Department, a subject most future PR practitioners are relieved to have left behind in high school.
Within the depths of kinematics and electromagnetic waves, there is a fountain of public relations knowledge. A hidden gem of expertise. His name is Professor Scott Fisher. In addition to being an advisor and astronomy lecturer within the Physics Department, Fisher is the Outreach Director. He has years of community outreach experience starting from his humble beginnings in Hawaii at the Gemini Observatory (one of the ten largest observatories worldwide) writing press releases, tabling at events and regularly chatting to the local news channel about the work being done at the observatory. Then came his time in D.C. with the National Science Foundation facilitating educational and grant-related programs. Now, the UO has snatched not only a great thinker in the astronomy world, but a PR one as well.
I sat down with Fisher to pick his brain about everything related to community outreach. In addition to being naturally predisposed to the communications field, he says he was born with extra helpings of schmooze, science, mathematics and “dashingly good looks.” Fisher understands how to bridge scientists’ complex ideas to the general public. While astrophysics and science in general may be a yawn-worthy field to some, (but a field with many, many, many PR jobs) it is one of the more challenging fields a PR practitioner can be tasked with strategically communicating. If a person, such as Fisher has, can get Aunt Martha in rural Florida or Hawaii to care about developments lightyears away, then that person can also communicate the messaging of more relatable brands such as Whole Foods, Nike, Tesla or Intel.
For those interested in job security and representing the future of the planet, there are a number of science classes targeted at non-science majors such as Fisher’s astronomy courses. But to get to the meat of it all, the following are key takeaways from my conversation with Fisher. One could call them “The Fisher Keys to Community Outreach Success.”
Know your audience.
“You can’t give the same spiel to every audience,” says Fisher. “It’s about the audience. It’s not about you, the PR person.”
This is core to any public relations plan, but even more so when tackling community outreach. Fisher has developed strategies in order to engage groups as varied as K-12 students to retirees in Central Oregon. And even when the demographics of two events are the same on paper, the value of personally interacting with the community and understanding what makes them tick cannot be underestimated.
Be flexible with the core message.
Once Fisher understands his audiences front and back, he likes to stay adaptable. “Quiet credentials” are an important tool in his kit. A public relations practitioner may know every fact, figure and anecdote pertaining to his or her client, but the real talent is knowing which select things to share with an audience. While a room full of professors may be impressed by your amazing resume and in turn care more about your client, second graders will not. Know what knowledge and experiences to share.
If people don’t care, it’s because they don’t understand.
“Don’t undervalue the interest of your audience in your topic,” Fisher says. “The best presentations and best stories I’ve written or interactions I have had, I’ve always felt that I covered all of the material I wanted to cover, but I left them wanting a tiny bit more.”
Scientists, stockbrokers and lawyers are often guilty of using too much jargon. They leave people wanting more— more of something they’ll actually understand. When it comes to community outreach, people first need to comprehend a subject, be it astronomy, homelessness or adoption, before they can care about it.
By Arunima Bhattacharjee
Last night’s party was a blast! You and your friends drank and today, you decided to share all of those pictures and videos on your social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Your friends will have a great laugh, people will see how crazy you were at the party and everything will remain a memory. Until one day when you apply for a job, and your recruiting employer decides to check your social media. When they see all your pictures from that night, they will either think you are a very social person or they might actually reject you based on what you did in the past.
Social media is a great place for employers to learn more about a potential candidate. About 93 percent of recruiters check the social media profiles of prospective candidates before they make a decision to hire them. And sometimes, what they find can be a major factor in hiring that person or not. A survey conducted by CareerBuilder with 2,200 hiring human resource managers found that 48 percent of hiring managers didn’t hire a candidate based on what they found on their social media.
Now I am quite positive that you don’t want to be that person who gets rejected from a job because of something you posted on social media. Therefore, here are some tips that can help you brand yourself on social media:
Identifying your brand
From the moment you went on cyberspace you formed your own brand. Google yourself, know what’s coming up when you search your name. The privacy settings on Facebook changes often, so be cautious of what is public and what isn’t. Therefore model a good positive behavior. If you want to impulsively post and share things, do it with positive intentions.
Your employer wants to know if you’re really the person you say you are, and social media is there to prove it to them. You don’t have to post things on Facebook or twitter to look more experienced or knowledgeable. You just have to be you (without the drunken pictures of course.)
What you write on social media matters
If you had a bad experience at a previous job, don’t write about it on social media. The hiring manager for your current job prospect will definitely not appreciate what you had to write about your previous employers, and that might put you at risk to getting the job. These 10 people lost their jobs because of something they posted on social media. You don’t want to be them before you even get the job.
Social media is filled with information about all of us. You don’t have to be fake to make yourself look appealing to the job recruiter. However, be conscious about what you post on your Facebook or Twitter. Just be yourself and don’t over exaggerate about your abilities or change your name to provide more security to your private life. Employers will like it if you do have social media because it proves you are up-to-date with the internet and obviously because you have a social life. So go out there into cyberspace and fix what needs fixing.
By Lily Gordon
Goodwill is where you go to piece together a Marty McFly costume for under $20. Or where Macklemore gets his Velour jumpsuit and house slippers. Or maybe even where your aunt goes to snag some great gag gift. But in all of these scenarios, Goodwill is a place. It is a brick and mortar business. People go to Goodwill.
Well, that’s about to change all in the name of Goodwill’s mission:
“To enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.”
That mission cannot be achieved without one simple thing, profits. More than 100 Goodwill stores have taken to the internet with the sole hope of boosting sales. The website, shopgoodwill.com, allows the retailer to sell items, typically higher priced merchandise such as jewelry, in an online auction similar to that of eBay. Going online has majorly payed off thus far. The Portland, Oregon Goodwill sites see more than a million dollars in online profits per month.
Goodwill’s move to an online shop demonstrates a clear understanding of millennials, one of the company’s top target markets. However, the non-profit has done a poor job of creating awareness about the online store. The Goodwill Industries Twitter actively promotes campaigns, interacts with customers and reiterates the company’s mission, but fails to mention shopgoodwill.com.
Whether or not shopgoodwill.com will ever become more successful than Goodwill brick and mortar stores is still up in the air. Clothes are a staple of the non-profit. When 20-somethings get excited about thrift shopping, scavenging clothing racks for great finds is typically what comes to mind. The fact is, however, clothing simply does not re-sell well online. That is something Goodwill’s public relations team will have to tackle if they intend to make shopgoodwill.com into the next generation’s idea of thrifting.
This is an exciting time for Goodwill’s PR teams across the United States and Canada. Despite the company’s blunders in the initial stages of its e-commerce appearance, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to shine. They haven’t done anything wrong— they just haven’t really done anything yet. It’s time for Goodwill to prove to millennials that thrift shopping is just as cool on a laptop as it is in a store.
By Lily Gordon
Protests are a quintessential part of democratic countries. Occupy Wall Street, the Civil Rights Movement, the Boston Tea Party— the good ol’ American protest has been proven to produce tangible change when addressing national policy or cultural issues. Perhaps the perfect Petri dish for protests and social activism is on a college campus. When a mass of people learning about the injustices of the world all live in one place, public demonstrations are bound to occur.
Dealing with protestors, or what strategic communicators so eloquently call “issues management,” isn’t exactly the highlight of most PR professionals’ week. I got the chance to sit down with Kyle Henley, the Vice President of Communications at the University of Oregon, and chat about the sometimes tricky topic of issue management on a college campus.
It seemed almost too fitting that on the way to Henley’s office I passed through a group of students from the UO Climate Justice League participating in a sit-in just a few feet from his door. Whereas in a large corporation the chief communications officer could stay in his or her corner office removed from demonstrators, a university is a small city. When neighbors are unhappy, they march right up to the offender’s front stoop.
Henley didn’t seem fazed by the guests in the atrium. He embodies his policy of keeping a level head when it comes to communicating. During our conversation, he mentioned countless morsels of PR wisdom, but a few core aspects stood out when it comes to approaching issues management. These are what I’m calling The Henley Keys to Communication Success.
Since the 1960s there have been loud student protests on American college campuses. “It’s not something we’re unaccustomed to dealing with,” says Henley. There are certain issues every university administration can anticipate— tuition, campus safety, feelings of inequality— and that makes it easier to develop proactive strategies. According to Henley the UO is a “well oiled machine” when it comes to controversy. Like any large corporation, the university’s communications team forecasts potential issues that could occur taking into consideration the student body’s demographics, upcoming changes, and other factors unique to the school.
“What’s the challenge? What are the answers and information you’ll need? And how will you communicate it?” Henley says these are the three questions to ask when addressing any communications problem. PR often faces criticism for being “all spin,” but when facing social activists, a brand must decipher the facts in order to develop a realistic path forward. Once the truth is evident to brand communicators, which may or may not align with activists’ demands, clear and consistent messaging can follow.
Henley admits he is the forty-five-year-old dad who really likes Facebook but doesn’t have the bandwidth to do the “other ones,” meaning Twitter, Snapchat, et cetera. He also acknowledges the major role social media plays in vocal student dissatisfaction. That’s why the university communications department has individuals who understand every in and out of these platforms tracking the conversation. Law enforcement even plays a role when it comes to monitoring the UO Yik Yak. The point is a person cannot become an expert on everything. A distinguishing characteristic of great PR professionals is that they can find the right experts and aren’t bothered by asking for assistance.
“Even if you have a job that you love, and I do, don’t let your job define you,” Henley said. “Find something you’re passionate about and invest in that.” Henley is a family man who enjoys cycling and cooking among other hobbies. Besides keeping a person sane, Henley notes the valuable perspective gained by having a fulfilling life outside of the office. PR is all about balance: what the brand wants compared to what consumers are demanding, having an online presence but also remaining personable, bringing creativity into the mix while keeping messaging accurate and clear. Balance is ultimately the key to professional communicating success be it personally, when dealing with a long-term branding project, or even when protestors come calling.