What PR people actually do

KERRY WASHINGTONWe have all experienced it before at family gatherings when our relatives ask what we are going to school for, and then we see their looks of confusion as we try to explain what our majors actually are. As much as I wish I could say that after graduation we all move onto be the next Olivia Pope, or even a gladiator for that matter, it’s not always like that. It’s often perceived that the role of Public Relations is an unethical career filled with lies and covering up mistakes of the clients, but that is very far from the truth of what PR professionals do.

Public relations professionals work to obtain free publicity for their client. This can be done in any number of ways – traditionally press releases are sent to journalists containing the information needed to write a positive story about their clients. A press release is a compelling news story that makes it clear why the client’s service, product, announcement or personal history is important. It is usually very short, and the goal is to make it easier for the journalist, however it is not controlled media.

One thing I think our generation can agree on as aspiring PR professionals, is that we could not be happier that social media is becoming a huge aspect of the job for PR professionals. Social media is a great tool brands use to reach customers and it’s FREE. For example, Oreo utilized the opportunity of the power outrage in the 2013 Super Bowl, to tweet one of the most famous and memorable tweets of 2013. Social media makes free publicity one tap of the finger away from the consumer. PR professionals are their own type of genius when it comes to utilizing the social media outlets.

PR professionals are also trained to do damage control. This is where the Olivia Pope aspect does come into play. “All publicity is good publicity”, well we all can think of a time where that is not always the case. Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber’s recent actions in the public eye are just a few examples of where all publicity is not always considered good publicity. One piece of bad press can change how the consumers perceive a brand. For example, when a woman said she found a finger in her chili from Wendy’s, (even though it was a false accusation) how many of us waited a few months or even years before trying Wendy’s chili again? PR professionals will create a ‘PR Crisis Management Plan’ to respond quickly and proactively when a story breaks that could hurt their reputation. This is a way to map out how the brand will react to the crisis and what their next steps need to be.

What’s unique about working in PR is that every day is different. As rising PR stars, our majors might seem confusing or unethical to those who do not take the time to notice that PR is everywhere. Next time you see a mind-blowing creative tweet or press release issued only minutes after ground breaking event, know that there is a team of PR stars who live to make that happen.

Chelsea Amato is a junior studying Strategic Communications. You can follow her on Twitter at @Chelsea_Amato.

Making an ImPRession in Australia

CarlyI’ve spent most of the past four years in a small but passionate community known as Athens, Ohio. However, this past fall I spent two and half months away from my beloved home. Very, very far away. I interned at a small boutique public relations agency called Dani Lombard Public Relations in Sydney, Australia.

Each and every day I learned something new about public relations. Each and every day I learned something new about the beautiful, yet sometimes complicated world we live in. Each and every day I learned how valuable my experiences have been at Ohio University and within the ImPRessions organization, specifically.

One of the main reasons I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and intern abroad was that I knew I had enough preparation and public relations skills under my belt to survive in a foreign country.

Here are a few ways that my ImPRessions experience transferred to interning in Australia:

The value of teamwork. Being a part of ImPRessions for three years requires a tremendous amount of teamwork considering each account is split up into small teams. Last year I worked on the AVW Productions account and we were in charge of planning an event for a new video premiere called Camelittle. Each account associate worked on a different aspect of planning. I specifically worked with another account associate to create a press release for the event. We not only had to work as a team to make the whole event a success but we also had to work together to craft the perfect press release.

Similarly, Dani Lombard Public Relations has four female employees (five including me). During my stay, we all sat around the same large desk and were in constant communication with one another. Often times, we would all be working towards the same goal but each have a different task to accomplish. Teamwork seems like a simple and easily attainable skill but in reality it takes a great deal of patience and practice.

Written communication. Throughout my career as an ImPRessions member, I have volunteered to write a number of PR-related assignments. I knew that these writing tasks would only help me in the long run. Boy, was I WRITE! (get it?!) I had the opportunity to write a number of press releases, pitches and blog posts as an account associate. I believe I gained more PR writing experience through ImPRessions than through my actual coursework.

When I was asked to write a press release for a client at Dani Lombard I first had a minor jump-up-and-down in my seat moment and then proceeded to write the release with confidence. Although writing styles are different and the average length of a press release in Australia is at least two pages, I was still able to show my co-workers that my writing skills are transferable in a global industry.

Knowing your media. Working with an ImPRessions client that spanned the Athens area required me to be very familiar with Dammanthe local media such as The Post, The Athens Messenger, WOUB and other event websites. Depending on the story or event my team was trying to pitch, we would tailor our message to a certain group of people or a certain publication. For example, the Camelittle event previously mentioned was tailored towards young children since it was an animated film. My team and I then crafted our message for Athens elementary school and middle school kids along with their parents.

During my international internship, I had to become very familiar with the media my co-workers pitched to. Dani Lombard has a wide variety of clients. However, its focus is on natural beauty products. Therefore, I became very familiar with magazines such as Australian Vogue, Women’s Fitness, Women’s Health and various other weekly gossip magazines. Knowing your media will allow you to craft your very best pitch to the right audience, no matter where you are in the world.

-Carly Damman is a senior studying strategic communication. To learn more about her adventures abroad follow her @CarlyDamman. To learn more about the company she interned for visit: www.danilombard.com.au