Monday, July 28, 2008

It's nice to be important but more important to be nice...

Growing up, my mom impressed upon me how important good manners and courtesy are-- no matter where you are in life.

But if you're like me, you can always use a refresher course. That's why I loved the summer edition of the "Communications Cocktail" from Frause reminding us that "Courtesy Rules!"

Who better than public relations professionals to set the bar on courtesy and gracious living?

Among other refreshing tidbits, Bob Frause shares some helpful Web sites to help you brush up on your table etiquette:
  • What's Cooking In America
  • Dining Etiquette for the Fast Food Generation
  • Eating Etiquette

  • I learned one of my favorite personal etiquette tips from Attorney General Rob McKenna who has attended just few Rotary lunches and charity auction dinners. Who hasn't been at a table where someone selects the wrong bread plate and by the time the bread basket makes it around the table there's an odd man out with a roll in one hand and a bread plate across the table? Rob taught me an easy way to always remember where the bread plate and drinking glass go.

    Simply touch your index fingers to your thumbs on each hand and leave the rest of the fingers straight. Your right hand will form a "d" to remind you your drinking glass goes to the right of your place setting. Your left hand will form a "b" to remind you your bread plate is on the left. Now you can always start your table off in the right direction!

    Don't say I never taught you anything...

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Changing face of the newsroom

    A reporter friend and I were chatting about the increasing pressures on traditional print journalists in a rapidly changing media environment the other day. Reporters are blogging and shooting video--all while filing their daily stories for the print edition and worrying whether they'll be included in the next round of staff reductions.

    To learn how this impacts us, media relations professionals might be interested in this recent study by Pew Research on the changing face of the newsroom.

    The study covers six main areas:
    Cutbacks--examining the depth of staff reductions and how larger and smaller newspapers have been affected;
    Changing Content--looking at what topics are losing space and resources, which are growing and which are holding steady;
    The Changing Newsroom--charting the transformation of newsroom skills, demands and culture; The Influence of the Web--studying the enormous impact newspaper websites are having on newsrooms and on daily newspaper journalism;
    Citizen In the Newsroom-- exploring the growing influence and impact of journalism produced by non-professional journalists; and
    The Future--weighing the implications of smaller newsrooms, greater innovation, more financial pressures and the struggle to monetize the web.


    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Easy ways to improve employee communications

    Following up on last month's program on employee communications, Ragan Communication has an intriguing story today on easy ways to improve internal communication--without asking permission.
    #1: Focus on the why
    #2: Hold informal focus groups
    #3: Create experiences for employees
    #4: Stop hiring writers
    #5: Give management options
    #6: Lighten up

    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    Cultivating Employee Evangelists

    Recruiting and retaining a qualified and effective workforce can be challenging within the limitations of any sector. But many executives overlook their greatest asset in this effort - their employees. Employees who feel appreciated will naturally talk about their employer and the jobs they enjoy to their families, friends and colleagues. Internal communications plays a vital role in fostering this positive employee satisfaction.

    On June 19, Sarah Lane (Internal Communications manager for the Office of the Attorney General) and I shared easy and inexpensive tips from our office's internal communications efforts to help communicators from any size organization make solid connections across their staff.

    Key takeaways from our presentation:
    • Help employees embrace change by:
      -- Listening to your employees
      -- Demonstrating commitment to them
      -- Engaging top leadership
    • Recognize employee achievement:
      -- Set high standards
      -- Reward excellence
    • Keep employees informed & maintain high morale:
      -- Develop connections
      -- Encourage innovation
      -- Demonstrate respect

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Trends and Tips in Travel PR

    The travel industry is one of America's largest with $740 billion in direct expenditures by travelers domestic and international (Travel Industry of America). At our May 22 program, Richmond Public Relations CEO Louis Richmond led a three-person panel of travel experts through a discussion of hot trends and helpful tips.

    Carol Pucci, Travelwise writer for The Seattle Times, says: Keep it simple. Stay focused on our region. Don't get overly cute with packaging.

    Ashley Southwick, publicist for Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door, agrees--reminding PR pros to follow the age-old rule: Know who you're pitching.

    Fancy packaging and gift items are nice--especially wine, she says, but they won't get you in Rick's guidebook unless you belong in the guidebook.

    Nicole Meoli, editor of AAA Journey magazine and freelance travel writer,says never underestimate the power of the telephone. In this era of e-mail overload, Nicole prefers a quick personal call with well-researched pitch.

    Close to home, ecotourism, learning tours and family trips are the top trends for these panelists. With rising gas prices and shrinking down time, it's really no surprise.

    Tell us about your favorite getaways!

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Looking for a few good new hires?

    While visiting WSU for the 2008 Murrow Symposium this year, I had the opportunity to preview the project five WSU seniors entered in the 2008 PRSA Bateman Competition.This just in:

    PULLMAN, Wash. -- The Public Relations Society of America awarded Honorable Mention to five Washington State University students who competed in a four-month long national public relations competition.

    Senior public relations students Justin Dotterweich, Jessica Fitts, Jana Lindsey, Alana Morgan and Kirby Pratt participated in the 2008 Bateman Case Study competition. Stacey Hust, assistant professor in communication, advised the team. The team competed against more than 70 teams that represented some of the best public relations programs in the country. (read more...)

    Congratulations everyone!

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    Honoring Edward R. Murrow's Legacy with WSU PRSSA

    To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful--Edward R. Murrow

    I've just returned from Washington State University where I participated in the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Symposium. It's my first trip back to Pullman for the symposium and I'm filled with renewed optimism for our field and renewed passion for communications.

    There's nothing more inspiring than spending several days with dedicated educators, highly respected colleagues and intelligent and ambitious students.

    Thank you to everyone who made my trip so special--especially the WSU PRSSA chapter (right), WSU's PRSSA faculty advisor Stacey Hust, Professor Bruce Pinkleton and Professor Erika Weintraub Austin, interim director of the Murrow School of Communications--soon to be the Murrow College.

    If you missed it, you're in luck. You can check out the 2008 Murrow Award Winner, 60 Minutes creator and former executive producer Don Hewitt, on TVW.

    TVW also captured two of the panels:
    Enjoy and Go Cougs!

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Using social media to boost your PR outreach

    The rapidly evolving world of social media offers new opportunities for public relations professionals willing to test-drive the technology.

    Nathan Kaiser, CEO of nPost, and Frank X. Shaw, who leads the Microsoft team at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, shared tips for reaching key audiences through channels other than the mainstream media during PRSA Puget Sound’s morning presentation, “Innovations in New Media,” March 27 in Seattle.

    They said the value of social media such as blogs vs. the tried and true classics, such as newsprint and TV, depends on your audience. A young guy who tells all his online friends about his cool new shoes may be more influential than, say, an article in the business section announcing Nike’s latest product line.

    But when Sarah Lacy, the author of a Business Week cover article and a book about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, interviewed him during a conference of techies, the crowd turned ugly. Lacy’s casual interview style didn’t jive well with the South by Southwest Interactive audience. Among the spectators were a number of bloggers who used Twitter to broadcast their opinions about the interview while it was happening.

    Our PRSA presenters offered many pearls of wisdom, which I’ve broken down into the following bits:

    · Be present online, as well as in the room. If you know that bloggers will attend an event, assign someone from your organization to monitor online conversations. Your speaker might even benefit by having a laptop in front of him or her. You can then decide whether to change the direction of the presentation. Or even better, create a mechanism for your online audience to interact and suggest topics that interest them.
    · Establish relationships. Get to know bloggers as well as you do the reporter at your local newspaper. Check out Twitter, Technorati and TechCrunch to find out who is covering your organization, product or service.
    · For every project, try something new that not’s critical to your success. If it works, add that tactic to your toolbox. And remember that while it’s always more interesting to focus on what’s cutting edge, you shouldn’t throw away proven strategies.
    · Measure your success. At the minimum, you need to know where your story was picked up. Google News and Google Blogsearch can send alerts to your e-mail account when news occurs. Choose a few keywords, like your company’s name, and receive headlines with links the moment the stories are posted or in a daily digest. You should also pay attention to content: Are your key messages coming across? Track comments and reactions, too: What conversations did the report spark? Services like Compete and Alexa offer analytical tools, while TechMeme can help you identify the most important technology-related stories of the day.
    · Be responsive. If a blogger is critical of your organization or service, thank him or her for the comment and say what you’re doing to fix the problem. If you resolve the issue, a critic may become your biggest fan. If a story sparks a flurry of negative reader comments, step back and give folks some time to cool down before you reply. Include a link to your Web site to assure your key messages consistently reach the people who care most about the issue.
    Courtesy of Guest Blogger Kristin Alexander, Seattle Media Relations Manager, Washington State Attorney General's Office.

    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    Jumpstarting your passion for PR

    If you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy the PRSA Jumpstart, you are truly missing out.

    On Saturday, roughly 60 new PR professionals, students and career changers gathered at Seattle University to take advantage of some of the most cost-effective PR professional development and networking in our area--some traveling more than nine hours to make it to the event since the passes were closed due to weather. (Go Cougs!)

    As 2008 president, I was honored to provide opening remarks, making the connection between strategic communications planning and plotting your career path. Here's a condensed version based on the RACE method of communications planning.

    Research: Do your homework. As you chart your career, one of the most important steps is research.

    • Determine your problem statement and research the factors behind it. I want a job at a big agency but I don’t have any experience.

    • Just as you would conduct a situational—or SWOT—analysis before undertaking a new communications campaign, you need to consider the following throughout your career:

    • What are your strengths? You’re a great writer, you have tremendous creative ability?

    • What are your weaknesses? You lack attention to detail? You don’t have as much experience as you’d like?

    • What opportunities do you have? You are familiar and comfortable with the new PR technologies?

    • What threats do you face? You don’t have any real life experience?

    • Who are your key audiences? HR managers? Small firm president? Communications director at a government agency? Exec director at a non-profit?

    • What are they interested in? Hiring a capable, credible staffer.

    • What time constraints do they face? They might be doing two jobs until the new hire is on board. They might be taking time away from a high-profile client to interview you.

    • Put yourself in their shoes. Why are you the best candidate for the job? Why should you win that great, high-profile assignment? Why should you be promoted?

    • Be specific, have examples, provide hard data but also keep it simple and concise—Bring clips, quantify how many clips you have, document how many volunteer hours you’ve put in on PR projects, grades, references

    Action: Set forth your plan of ACTION

    • Set your goals—Your broad dream of what you want to accomplish. To get a job at Microsoft. To win a promotion to account manager or deputy communications director.

    • Establish objectives—Who is your audience? What do you want them to do? By when? By how much? Demonstrate to communications director that I’ve completed XX number of projects over and above my day-to-day expectations and should be promoted by my next review.

    • Devise strategies to achieve your objectives. Strategies are focused on broad areas. Then you’ll employ various day-to-day tactics under each strategy to win that great job, promotion or raise. Look for projects above and beyond my day-to-day work and offer to do them to demonstrate initiative. Complete every assignment given to me early or in an excellent manner, exceeding expectations. Be creative. Don’t make your boss have to constantly assign things to you—start learning what needs to be done and do it. WELL. Demonstrate my passion for the Red Cross by volunteering on projects even if they don’t have an opening for me right now.

    Communicate: Put your plan into action.

    • Think about the day-to-day tactics and timelines you’ll need to meet to back up the strategies you are pursuing. Keep a check list or to-do list of all your job duties and a timeline of when your supervisor asked you to complete them—Be accountable. Make a list of projects your group wants to complete that you can volunteer to help complete. Ask your boss if you can go forth and do them. If you don’t have a job, make a list all the same with tactics like, update resume, research Microsoft’s latest initiatives, schedule informational interviews, attend PRSA meetings and network.

    Evaluate: Are you meeting your objectives? Do you need to adjust? This is where you go back to your research and objectives and check in with your key audiences to see how your strategies and tactics are working.

    • Maybe you’re volunteering for extra projects but you’re letting your day-to-day work slide. Someone has to monitor the clipping service, answer the phones, etc.

    • Maybe you’re volunteering for the extra projects and setting an expectation you haven’t been able to meet. Don’t be all talk and no action!

    • Maybe you’re knocking it out of the park – and you’ll be promoted early!!

    • Maybe you’ll have to take a little detour in your job search? Always keep your options open-everything you learn in PR can be applied in the future.

    • Checking in with your key audience – supervisor, potential hiring manager, etc—is never a bad idea, in moderation. If you don’t have anything new to provide to a hiring manager, don’t just keep bothering them every week. Pestering drives people crazy, but persistence and perseverance demonstrate passion, focus and drive.

    Congratulations to everyone who attended this year's Jumpstart and a tremenous THANK YOU to all the speakers and committee members who created yet another top-notch Jumpstart.

    Please help me out by posting additional resources in the comments!

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    Local Independent featured in PRSA Tactics

    For those of you (like me), who sometimes have trouble finding time to read PRSA Tactics, I wanted to make sure you didn't miss "Small shops, big business: Independent practitioners share ideas, gain respect," in the January 2008 issue, featuring our own Joseph Jimenez, APR.

    This article captures the best nuggets from a PRSA panel featuring Jimenez and three other members of the Independent Practitioners Alliance.

    Moderated by Tactics editor in chief John Elsasser, the panel discussed challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.

    Jimenez is a well-known expert on risk communication in Puget Sound circles, presenting a great program on the issue to the South Sound group in 2007 and to the Olympia Communicators Group in 2006. You can check out the presentation on the Olympia Communicators Web site.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    Political PR: It's not just for pundits

    On Jan. 8, as the presidential candidates duked it in New Hampshire in the first official primary of the 2008 presidential primary season, members of the PRSA Puget Sound Chapter were treated to a unique inside look at the political season--and why PR professionals should pay attention.
    In a program most would have to catch on TV, PRSA members experienced firsthand a stimulating discussion, featuring two of the state's top political advisors, Republican strategist Randy Pepple and Democratic strategist Cathy Allen, moderated by one of Seattle TV's most respected political journalists, Robert Mak, host of KING 5's Up Front.

    What's the main difference between campaign PR and corporate PR? What's the difference between developing a campaign for a product or corporation -- and developing a political campaign? Time. Money. Audience.
    Both Randy and Cathy agreed that the pressure and timeline of a political campaign requires PR professionals to develop hard-hitting, impactful and short-term strategies to reach a broader audience on a much smaller budget than your typical corporate campaign.

    The intensity of the campaign forces strategists to go for the shock value-- meaning more negative than positive.

    In a traditional PR campaign, Allen budgets roughly two years' time to impact public opinion, in a political campaign, she says advisors have nine months or less to make an impression.

    Strategies have to be flexible enough to change over night, Pepple said.

    Working on a statewide campaign is like PR Bootcamp-- if you can't react quickly, you are done. If you're ready to really test your media relations and crisis communications skills and you have a favorite candidate, this is the year, Pepple and Allen agreed.

    Campaigns are always looking for knowledgeable PR professionals to jump into the trenches and help out. It's a great way to prove yourself and develop a reputation.

    Even if you're more of an independent, not interested in delving into the world of political campaigns, Cathy, Randy and Robert agreed, people look to public relations leaders to have some basic knowledge of how the 2008 elections are shaping up and what it means.

    Here's a little nugget you can drop: This is the first time since 1952 that no sitting president or vice president is on the ticket. It's all up for grabs!

    There was so much more ... but it's too long for a blog post! Wish you were there...

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    Happy New Year

    Welcome to 2008-- and the 51st year of PRSA in the Puget Sound. We had an incredible year last year and look forward to more great programming and fun networking this year.

    Have you decided to make career development and networking one of your New Year's resolutions? Volunteering with PRSA is a great way to achieve your goals.

    If you'd like to be more involved this year, please contact one of the following board liaisons:

    If you have questions about any of these opportunities, please contact Erika Schmidt, APR, past president and leadership development liaison at or me at

    Here's to a great 2008! Cheers,

    Janelle Guthrie, APR-- 2008 Puget Sound Chapter President