Friday, April 22, 2011

From Your Lip's to Whose Ears?

This week we had the chance to hear from Frank Roby, a true global communications leader. Roby is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Concero Global, an advisory firm based in Dallas. Roby, an SMU alum, recently also took on the role of being the CEO of Empower African Children, an organization serving orphans and other vulnerable children in Uganda.

Roby started out by telling us about his background and how a “Public Communication” student from SMU went on to being the CEO of two international organizations, including his 35 year tenure at Homes Murphy. While we discussed various global concerns with Roby, including the Palestine-Israel conflict and the British Petroleum oil spill one year ago, the one thing that I took away from his lecture was that “it’s less about the message we can send and more about the message someone else can receive.

The point of that stance, according to Roby, was that communicators today tend to focus more on the message that is being sent instead of the receiver’s understanding of it. “It is an inherent problem in today’s communication sphere,” Roby said. “We care more about using fancy diction and looking at things as they would be accepted by us.”

Having lived in India for over nine years of my life, I couldn’t agree more with Roby. I can remember the culture shock I went through when I first moved here. Things that meant one thing back in India meant something completely different in the United States. I remember my teacher thanking me for something I did in fourth grade, just months after I had moved here. I responded with “mention not,” which is commonly used in India instead of “you’re welcome.” She was confused and pulled me aside after class to ask me why I didn’t want to talk about the incident. Needless to say, the cultural difference in this situation got the best of both of us. 

I would like to leave you all, once again, with a cartoon which I find pretty relevant to the topic. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Caution: Two Way Dialogue Ahead

Last week, Rob Martin of MM2spoke to our class about integrated marketing. I just want to start off by saying how much I enjoyed his visit. Mr. Martin was very direct and frank about his message. He didn’t beat around the bush to say what he wanted to. Secondly, his PowerPoint was visually enticing and kept me engaged the entire time. He backed up his argument with lots of research and statistics, which was a plus because some of these statistics blew me away.

Amongst other things, I took away three key points from Martin’s lecture:
1) Marketing is a multi-channel, multi-platform and deeply social phenomenon. 
2) Communication is now a two way street.
3) The 4 P’s of marketing/advertising have evolved with our growing technology.

I feel like the first two points can be grouped together and conclude that the nature of the business is now cyclical rather than horizontal, something that even Ken Fairchild pointed out. The old way of doing things was just advertising and getting your message across via print, radio and television. Your product’s sales were basically the only type of feedback you got. However, now that consumers have a voice – a strong one, that too – the system has completely changed.

Marketers today don’t have any excuse if they aren’t listening to what their consumers are saying. From social media channels to blogs and review boards, stakeholders are speaking anywhere and everywhere they can. It is up to the marketers to find and use this data in order to enhance their brand.

The third point complements this whole cycle as well. Before, the 4 P’s of the marketing mix  were product, place, promotion and price – all of which were controllable by the marketers in the one-way method. However, as Martin pointed out, those days are gone. The new 4 P’s, listed below, reflect the recent connected, two-way nature of the system:

1) Portal/platform
2) Permission
3) Participation
4) Personalization

As Martin said, we are living in the time of a “marketing mashup, where everything is multi-layered with lots of options.” The growth of technology is exponentially increasing these layers and options on a day-to-day basis. Now, how these layers and options are used at their full potential is up to us… 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Expansion of Quantitative PR

Before we left for spring break, we got to hear from Mike Lake, Chair of Burson-Marsteller's Southwest operations and Chair of their U.S. Public Affairs Practice. I’ve been fortunate enough to have known Mike for a few years now, via his involvement with PRSSA as well as the SMU Comm. Studies Advisory Board. I can confidently say that he is one of the most accomplished yet humble people I have ever come across and he is willing to help absolutely anyone who asks for it.

Mike brought a different kind of presentation to our classroom, which I truly enjoyed. He walked us through Burson-Marsteller’s iPoker campaign, teaching us all about BM’s commitment to maintaining an “Evidence-Based Communications.” What is that, you ask? Rolled out in December 2009, the Evidence-Based Communications approach is a type of “methodology for developing, monitoring and measuring communications programs.” As Mike said, it “ends the guess work and brings about the homework.” Yes, he went there and used the “h” word we dread.

Mike’s presentation was full of research and statistics that were relevant to the topic. If someone walked into the classroom midway through his presentation, they would think it was STAT 5301 instead of CCPA 5301. Nonetheless, the homework that Mike talked about brings a quantitative facet to the field of public relations, which is much needed in my opinion.

Often times, I have heard of people writing PR off as a subjective industry where all we do is plan parties and manipulate people. This isn’t just an American problem – it is a global problem. However, I commend agencies such as BM for adopting such approaches and steering public relations to become a combination of art, business and science skills.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's a Small World, After All

Remember when you were little and your parents would play the song “It’s a Small World?” It indeed is a small world. This week, we had Jennifer Little and Ashley Maddocks from Edelman come to our class. It took me back to my fall semester of my junior year, as I had the privilege of interning with their office back then.
Ashley and Jennifer had great chemistry as co-speakers and did a wonderful job of representing the agency world to us. Often times as graduating seniors, we are told to “fear” the fast pace and the work load of a PR agency. The two ladies, however, reminded us how this actually is a good thing and prepares upcoming PR professionals for a versatile career in the industry. Additionally, they shed a lot of light upon how Edelman helps their employees grow via programs such as Edelman University and Living in Color.
However, the one thing that struck me the most about our conversation with them was our discussion of the PR industry in Dallas. Dallas may be one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, but everyone knows everyone in the PR world here. This may reflect our locals’ ability to network powerfully or just the fact that our numbers aren’t as considerable as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Either way, the song’s golden rule of “friendship to everyone” applies here more than anywhere else.
The ladies proved this point by giving us an example of a potential intern who had experience at another agency where he didn’t put his best foot forward. Little did he know, his current supervisor was Ashley’s roommate…  As you may have guessed, he surely didn’t get to be a Trainee at Edelman after that.
While one must always be a positive and hard-working intern regardless of where they are, we must realize that this matters even more in a well-connected community like Dallas. The six degrees of separation are probably cut into three degrees here and I want to thank Jennifer and Ashley of reminding us that it’s a small world, after all.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Job Satisfaction - Real or Imaginary?

I have been fortunate enough to know the wonderful Gail Chandler, APR, for some time now. Mrs. Chandler has been a strong supporter of the SMU PRSSA chapter and has served as our Professional Advisor for the last two years. In fact, Mrs. Chandler even won the Dr. Frederick H. Teahan Chapter Award for Outstanding Professional Advisor this past year at the PRSSA National Conference.

Mrs. Chandler’s visit to our classroom was extremely pleasant. Her usual congenial demeanor and her passion for Texas Instruments left me with a heartwarming feeling when all was said and done. She started out by telling us how she got the “best job in the world” and how we can find jobs that will be perfect for us as well. However, the one thing that stuck with me from Mrs. Chandler’s lecture was her outlook on job satisfaction. “Life is too short to work somewhere that you don’t like,” she said.

The reason that this line stuck with me is that every speaker thus far has loved what he or she does. Deanna McKinley from Frito-Lay claimed that she has the best job in the world, as did Ken Fairchild and now Mrs. Chandler. As cheesy as this sounds, when they spoke about their organizations or their occupation, they had an aura of gratification and contentment around them. It was a testimonial to seniors, such as myself, who are scared about our first “real” jobs that job satisfaction is not just a pigment of our imagination – it truly exists.

Additionally, as a strong advocate of PRSSA myself, I appreciated Mrs. Chandler’s push for PRSA and PRSSA by telling us her stories about how these organizations have helped her succeed in her career. Thank you, Mrs. Chandler, for being such a promoter of our PRSSA chapter!

P.S. I just couldn't help myself when I saw this cartoon... It definitely pertains to Mrs. Chandler's point of retaining employees via job satisfaction.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Unassailable Position

When I read Ken Fairchild’s bio on the Fairchild Consulting website, I was in awe of his accomplishments and expertise. I mean, the man is one of the originators of spokesperson/media training! However, after reading Professor Flournoy’s exhaustive bio of Mr. Fairchild’s exhilarating career, my awe quickly turned into worship and idolization. I thought to myself, “How can someone so accomplished be so humble?”
However, humility isn’t Mr. Fairchild’s only asset; his commanding presence and his frank nature made the lecture extremely worthwhile. He started out by reminding us of the value of a CCPA degree and equipped us with confidence that seniors such as myself sometimes misplace during the job search. I couldn’t help but feel empowered when a man of his stature was telling us that we are well equipped to take on the real world. I wish I could just sit here and go through everything he said, from the coining of the term “spin doctor” to his breakdown of a powerful soundbite. However, the one thing that I want to focus on in today’s post is Mr. Fairchild’s advice of attaining the “unassailable position” in crisis communications.  
When you look up the word unassailable in the thesaurus, you will come across synonyms such as infallible, inarguable, unquestionable and irrefutable. However, within that same list, you will also find words such as trustworthy, genuine and undoubted. That, to me, sums up his entire stand on crisis communication: Be truthful during your predicament and your statements will be irrefutable.
Mr. Fairchild placed a strong emphasis on the message itself. His summation’s first bullet was “All communication depends on your message.” The message I got from his book excerpt was the same message he gave us in class – the unassailable position is the heart of crisis communication. He quickly pointed out the misconception that people have about this unassailable position, especially ones he noticed in C.W. Fong’s article. “I don’t know why he said you can’t hide anything anymore in crisis communications,” Mr. Fairchild said. “You never could hide anything in the first place if you did your job right.”
Additionally, Mr. Fairchild pointed out that just because social media is easy to use and informal, we should not forget the formal means of communications or the value of the message. Often times, as students, we get so caught up in the clutter on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare that we forget about the essence of our message and applying that essence across multiple digital and non-digital platforms. This isn’t to say that just writing a powerful press release is not necessary anymore; it is just to say that a press release will not fix everything. Instead, he reminds us about using every single medium available effectively, consistently and in harmony. “Use the medium,” Mr. Fairchild says. “Don’t let it use you.”
I appreciated that when tackling the “tough questions,” Mr. Fairchild turned the tables on us. He’d ask students how they would handle a certain situation and then gave his input, which allowed for stimulated thinking and dialogue. His plethora of experiences and his candid manner made the lecture very interesting to all of us. Thank you, Mr. Fairchild, for a lesson well taught!
P.S. My fellow classmates, keeping Mr. Fairchild's "spin doctor" commentary in mind, I figured we could all enjoy this cartoon:

Friday, January 28, 2011

You're supposed to be tired and broke.

I had met Deanna McKinley previously but only for a few seconds. We had greeted each other at the PRSA’s Pro-Am Day last year and that’s all I remembered. Our second meeting, however, left a lasting impression on me…

To start off, Deanna is funny, lively and inspiring all at once – qualities that put our entire classroom in awe of her. I truly admire her frank and interactive nature because it turned the lecture into a two-way dialogue. I enjoyed her personal touches to the message she was conveying because it made her material more relevant to us.

However, the one key message that really resonated with me was when she reminded us, “You’re supposed to be tired and broke in college. It’s the American way.” As someone who sleeps for three to four hours a night, I basically had to stop myself from cuing the violins in the background and dancing around the room like a maniac; I felt like she almost knew my life story for that one minute.

As college students who live the “American way,” we sometimes forget to be grateful for the destitute and fatigue that surrounds us. I appreciated Deanna reminding us that sitting through four hours of extracurricular meetings every other day is a blessing, not a burden. It is a testament of one’s management and leadership skills. She also reminded us that unpaid internships are worth more in the end, because the experience and knowledge you walk away with couldn’t be purchased with that entire semester’s earnings. She reminded us that running around like headless chickens truly enhances our college experience and maximizes our potential.

Thank you, Deanna, for such an amazing presentation. Your appropriately titled lecture, “Real World PR: Things Your Teacher Never Taught You,” was intriguing, exciting and pertinent. I can only hope to walk out of here as successfully and effectively as you did.