Life in PR: Lessons Learned Along a Country Road

“It’s all in the details.” A common refrain, but one that we don’t always focus on in our fast-paced, get-it-done-now PR life.  A few days ago, I started off on my favorite mountain running route on Beech Mountain, NC, the cool breeze blowing past, lush greenery whizzing by my peripheral vision.

Rhododendrons 300x225 Life in PR: Lessons Learned Along a Country RoadAs I reached the summit of the first hill (a huge accomplishment for the FL flatlander I am), I suddenly came face to face with a large female deer (a doe, right?).  Her huge brown eyes did not even blink – she just stood still, staring at me as I slowed to a walk and got my bearings. She didn’t follow me which was a relief, since I did not have a Plan B in mind should she be in an aggressive mood.

That’s when I decided to remain at this pace, to take in my surroundings and focus on all the little things I had never seen before on this very familiar route.  Yes, it IS all in the details.  Here are three things I realized during my solitary country walk:

1. Pay attention to details now and save time later.  Yes, it’s true – no matter how much we think we can multi-task, reflecting on the here and now and mentally recording information for later use is proven to be more productive in the long run. Rushing inevitably leads to mistakes, omissions and unsatisfying results.

2. Reflect upon how smaller elements add up to the big picture.  If you are always looking 10 steps ahead and only achieving a “macro” view, you are less likely to plan a logical course from point A to point B.  Allow yourself to understand the steps you need to take to reach your goal and the more equipped you will be to replicate the experience later, and to explain to your client or boss how you achieved the desired result.

3. Enjoy the experience and become more creative.  I know, you’ve heard it a million times in many different ways – “be present,” ” be in the moment,” “be mindful” – but did you ever really try to do it?  It’s not easy, but let’s face it – for most of us in PR, life/work is pretty fun (except when you’re dealing with a crisis).  We have the opportunity to build relationships, to participate in community, and to be creative – whether it’s for traditional marketing materials or online content.  You will be surprised how just a few minutes out of your usual routine can result in some of your most extraordinary “wow” moments.

Try it today -whether you are on a mountain, near a beach or in proximity to busy city streets, get out, take a walk and notice what is around you. You may be surprised, you may be delighted, and best of all, you may be inspired.

 

Let me know what you find out there!

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Life in Public Relations: A Recipe for Kindness

 

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Gloria’s La Trattoria Cafe Napoli, Fort Myers

 

 

 

 

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Good at Heart

This is part I of a story about one woman’s kindness and one young girl’s dream. With all that is going on in the world, it is uplifting and inspiring to know that Anne Frank was right when she wrote, “despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” I hope that I can share with you the same feel good moment I experienced today.

AMIkids Southwest Florida

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A little background first: Like many of us in the public relations profession, at PKE we are concerned about our community and love getting immersed in the causes we care about. At our firm, we work with several Southwest Florida non-profit organizations, but our heart is with children and education, specifically AMIkids Southwest Florida, an alternative school for at-risk kids between 14 and 18 years old.

One visit to this day school and you cannot help but be impressed by the staff’s commitment to getting these kids back on the right track and back into their regular high schools. Through rigorous academics, mental health therapy and behavioral treatment, this program addresses the problems of kids who often have unbearable home lives filled with violence, drugs and abuse. They start out with such a disadvantage that there is little surprise when they get into trouble and make the wrong decisions.

A rough start

A few months ago, we planned a Ladies Tea to create more awareness about AMIkids Southwest Florida. One of the students, 15-year old Naomi, was brave enough to share her story with the guests. She not only told of her hardships, first the incarceration of her parents and then their deaths, being split up from her sibling and sent to live with an elderly aunt who became a substitute “grandma,” she also shared one of her dreams – to become a chef and to own her own restaurant.

Her talk was so direct and heartfelt that everyone was silent for a moment after she was finished – we were amazed at all this child had been through and yet here she was, tasting her first scones, trying a variety of teas and sharing her future plans. What could be more wonderful and serendipitous than one of the guests being a local chef/restaurant owner? Even better, the guest was Gloria Cabral, owner of La Trattoria Café Napoli, a warm-hearted, friendly, community-minded person who was as taken with Naomi’s story as the rest of us. So much so that without hesitation, she offered her time and attention to mentor Naomi – to have her come to the restaurant to see what the life of a chef is all about. In essence, the offer to ignite Naomi’s dream and help her take the first step to making it become real.

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Portrait of Gloria that hangs in her restaurant

A new beginning

Today was Naomi’s first visit to Gloria’s Trattoria Café Napoli. Accompanied by AMIkids executive director Windye McNeal, restaurant manager Tino gave Naomi a front and back of the house tour, briefed her on the menu and wine list, and gave her tips from “Safe Staff,” a publication on safety in the workplace from the Florida Restaurant Association. Her next lesson will be with Gloria in the kitchen to learn more about the role of a sous chef and the importance of quality cuisine. The best part? Gloria has designated May 14 as “Tapas Night with Naomi,” an AMIkids SWFL fundraiser where Naomi will participate as sous chef for the evening and help prepare dinner for 55 guests.

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Tino’s training session with Naomi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naomi is slightly nervous about being in the spotlight, but when I asked her how she felt about all this, she said, “I am really excited about this adventure. This is a dream I will always remember.”

One woman, one girl and one extraordinary act of kindness – the perfect ingredients for a second chance.

 

 

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Delicious lunch at Gloria’s La Trattoria Napoli

Part II coming soon: In the Kitchen with Gloria & Naomi

Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)

By: Kate Walter

Exactly one week ago today, I was rushing home to check my mailbox to see if I’d received PRSA logo 300x141 Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)a letter in the mail. I had! The wonderful news from the Public Relations Society of America informed me that I was now officially accredited in public relations (APR). Although the process was a long one, I’m still confident in my initial decision to become an APR. My decision, like many others who decide to go through this accreditation, was based on wanting to enhance the overall reputation of public relations as a growing and valid profession. In addition, I wanted to further my own knowledge base, inevitably providing more value to the clients I work with.

Just in the past week, I’ve already begun to get questions from peers asking for advice on what I did to help me through the studying process, whether I think getting his or her APR would benefit them and tips for passing. So, I thought I‘d share what worked for me in hopes that others will be persuaded to become fellow APRs. icon smile Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)

  1. Wanting it

The first time I discovered what an APR was, I was still in grad school. I was perusing the PRSA website and came across the information about accreditation. Even at the time I was bursting with enthusiasm! Although I realized I needed to wait until I’d

APr logo Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)

entered the workforce and gained some real-world experience before beginning the APR process, it’s been in the back of my mind for the past 4 years. Suffice it to say, I WANTED this. And I wasn’t going to let anything dissuade me from pursuing it.

  1. Timing

As a member of the Florida Public Relations Association, our organization offers APR classes that members can attend to help prepare them for the Readiness Review and the multiple choice exam. The accreditation chair began these weekly classes in February and they ended in May. I had written most of my 10-page Readiness Review paper by the end of the class and gave my presentation in early June. Having gotten a passing score, I gave myself two months of solid studying and sat for the exam on Aug. 29. The whole process took seven months. I remember at the beginning of February I tried to convince my best friend to take the class with me. As she was due to have her first child in July, she declined, thinking it would be poor timing. As with most things, she was right! Now we laugh about how there was no way she would have been able to focus, take care of her baby boy and put in the time it takes to study and prepare for the exam. Before you start this journey, you need to evaluate how much time you have to give. Does your job get busier during those months? Is your personal life changing? Are you able to allot time each day to studying? You have to be honest with yourself and make the right choice for you.

  1. Dedication

As I said, it took me seven months to complete the APR program. Would you still be Marvels The Avengers 150x150 Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)motivated after seven months? I can tell you, its not easy. Instead of going home, relaxing on my couch and watching The Avengers with my puppy, I was studying; reviewing notes, reading chapters, taking practice exams, meeting up for study sessions, using flash cards….the list goes on. If you’re not dedicated, don’t start.

  1. Experience

I wanted to sit for the APR as soon as possible. In fact, I remember asking my previous employer (who happened to be the APR accreditation chair at that time) if she thought it’d be a good idea for me to begin the classes. At this time, I’d had about zero work experience, was just out of school and oh, did I mention I didn’t even major in public relations? She very kindly told me she thought it best if I wait a few years as the Universal Accreditation Board recommends you have five years of work experience first. I thought to myself, “Five years? I’ll do it in less. I like a good challenge.” But that self-assured attitude could have gotten me in trouble. I feel very fortunate to have worked on the agency side of public relations, handling a variety of clients in varying professions and industries. Without that broad scope of experience, I’m fairly confident I wouldn’t have passed. (I also have to shout out to my wonderful employers/mentors who not only trusted and believed in me, but also allowed me to prove myself by giving me a variety of projects to work on!)

More than the number of years you’ve been working, I think it’s more important to evaluate the type and breadth of work you’ve done. Have you dealt with a communication crisis, do you handle media relations daily, have you ever applied copyright law knowledge to a real-world situation, have you worked with non-profit clients and for-profit clients and understand how to market them differently? I think the APR can be a more difficult process if you’ve only worked for one company that conducts business in one industry AND you’ve only had a few years of experience. That being said, you’re the best judge of what you know and what you’re capable of. So, if you think you’re ready, go for it! Game on!

  1. Get Zen with it

Meditation 300x199 Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)This might just be the yogi in me, but it worked and I’m swearing by it. The week of my test I decided to only study lightly and attempt (operative word) to not stress too much. I had prepared for the past two months for the exam and I didn’t want to over-think anything at that point. Instead of grueling morning workouts, I chose to take calming yoga classes and I visualized passing the exam. I think this visualization was key. In my head, I walked through the entire process of taking the multiple choice exam; walking in, setting up my computer, reading each question slowly, knowing that when I got frustrated I would take a deep breath and continue on. I even visualized the overall, passing score I would get. Result? I passed and I got the exact score that I visualized. Powerful.

 

Let me know if any of these tips helped you in the comments below!

 

 

My Inspired Experience Interning for PKE Marketing and PR Solutions

By: Sherona Edwards

As a student at Florida Gulf Coast University (Go Eagles!) entering into my senior year, this past semester has been one of the most challenging semesters I’ve ever gone through.  But, it was well worth it. Being that I was a transfer student I can happily say that I successfully completed my first year at FGCU with high honors. Throughout the year I was able to meet new people and learn from amazing teachers. They were the ones who brought me out of my shy quiet shell; I did not know anyone but they pushed me to go out and meet new people. By doing so I was able to network with people in my major and make connections allowing me to land an awesome internship with PKE Marketing and PR Solutions.

When starting my internship I must admit that I was a bit nervous. Being that this was my first internship ever, I didn’t know what to expect and I felt like the “jitters” were getting the best of me.  However, once I entered into my internship on May 9, 2013, I felt my nervous jitters slowly fading away and a sense of happiness and calm spread over me. When I walked through the door of PKE the first person to greet me was my internship supervisor and the principal of PKE Marketing and PR Solutions, Mrs. Phyllis Ershowsky.  To me, Mrs. Phyllis is a sweet, gentle, caring soul who is also fluent and well versed in her career field. After giving me a tour around the office and making me feel more comfortable and at ease we had the chance to sit down and tell each other a little more about ourselves. I must say that while listening to her share some of the amazing experiences she’s had throughout her career, I was honored to have Mrs. Phyllis as my Internship supervisor. Through her guidance I knew that I would be able to effectively grow in the PR field.

The next person that I met was PKE ‘s public relations & marketing coordinator, Kate Walter. To be honest, Kate is one of those rare, “one in a million”, PR geniuses whom despite being young in the field of PR, definitely knows her craft. Being able to communicate with Kate about PR and whether I should continue my education once I earn my bachelor’s degree, inspired me to take the next steps in furthering my education. By listening to and observing Kate, I now know that if you focus and concentrate, you can successfully execute your plans to reach whatever goals you desire, no excuses.

Now, after having the opportunity to be mentored by two amazing PR professionals at the same time, I feel that the bar has been set high when the time comes for me to join the workforce and embark into my desired field of public relations. My standards are set, my plans written and there is no allotted room for excuses. In PR terms, “I’ve determined my objectives and I’m ready to implement my strategies in order to accomplish my goals.”

Etiquette and Protocal: How social media has turned into C3PO

By: Kate Walter

There has been a lot of talk lately on public relations forums about the etiquette of social media. Most recently, I read an article by Kevin Allen on PR Daily News. Although I agree with his main points about maintaining professionalism on LinkedIn, there were a few interesting comments he made that garnered my interest. Most notably, when he stated, “It sounds ridiculous, but people can really lose respect for you if you post things that are generally reserved for more informal social media outlets. Although we’re all saddened by the tragic events that took place in (insert location here), LinkedIn just isn’t the forum for sending your thoughts and prayers their way. Those expressions, however benevolent, should stay on Facebook or Twitter.”

logo linkedin 300x84 Etiquette and Protocal: How social media has turned into C3PO

I admit, that my opinion on this issue may have something to do with the fact that I was one of the early adopters of Facebook back in 2004 and remember how the social media site used to function. Yes, I remember the days when you had to have a college email address to sign up. Back when your aunt, your Mom, your neighbors and every business owner in the world weren’t able to look at your posts and tagged photos from last night’s Frat party. Social media was safe. You existed in a cocoon of your peers. You were surrounded by like-minded individuals who weren’t judging you on your level of professionalism or whether they might potentially hire you. Things have changed.

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To get back to Mr. Allen’s comment, it’s interesting how he differentiates LinkedIn as being strictly professional and says that on Facebook and Twitter you are allowed to be more open, more empathetic and more ‘you’. I agree that LinkedIn is considered more of a professional social media site and there are different rules. However, I would argue that even Facebook and Twitter have become forums where self-expression is stifled, as one must consciously be aware of who is viewing your content. Yes, some of this depends on who you’re ‘friends’ with or who ‘follows’ you. Some of this depends on the nature of your job. Another part of this comes down to your settings and what you allow others to see on your social media page and what content you choose to share. But in truth, despite Facebook and Twitter being more accepting of creative posts, personal opinion and benevolent expressions, these social media sites aren’t the same entities they were when they first launched.

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Also, when you consider that most individuals connect with the same people across all three of these social media platforms, this differentiation between the social media sites becomes even more blurred. Despite LinkedIn having the pretense of being more professional, if you have access to the content of a persons’ Twitter, Facebook as well, you’re still going to see the professional and ‘unprofessional’ content. And, therefore, your overall view and opinion of this person will still be affected.

It’s a definite conundrum and one that continues to grow as social media continues to grow and change. In addition to Mr. Allen’s tips about using proper etiquette on LinkedIn, I suppose my two cents of advice would be to use the same etiquette on Facebook and Twitter. Or learn how to change your privacy settings.

My Experience with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

This past semester PKE Marketing & PR Solutions was fortunate to have Caroline Lennox, a Florida Gulf Coast University student, as our intern. Caroline spent three months working directly on client projects and gaining real-world experience. I asked her to write a blog entry on any topic she thought was interesting and related to the work that she’d accomplished in public relations. I hope you enjoy her blog post as much as I did.

~Phyllis

 

My Experience with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

By: Caroline Lennox

When I learned I would be working at Susan G Komen Race for the Cure helping the media, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited, knowing that I would see how everything happens behind the scenes at a big event like this. Being an intern, I expected to be doing small things like talking with potential interviewees or finding breast cancer survivors who would be interested in being interviewed.  I never imagined I would be working right with the news stations helping with interviews and more. I was directly involved in placing people to be on air.  Setting them up with WINK News and NBC-2 was intimidating, but exciting at the same time.  It’s such an awesome feeling watching a live interview and knowing that I helped make that happen. That was a special moment for me and it made me realize I’d chosen the right career path.

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I spent the whole day coordinating interviews, taking pictures to be posted on social media sites and also newspaper websites and helping direct people at the finish line. Being able to watch the setup before the race and also the aftermath gave me an interesting view of how the event is run.  I came to appreciate all those people who spent their time setting up all the tables, chairs, tents and other items before the race began. They had to turn right around and take things down at the end of the day.  Being behind the scenes is eye opening in a way, as I saw so much more than I would have if I’d just volunteered or ran in the 5k race. Meeting the executive director and other Komen staff members and seeing how the whole event is run from their perspective is intense. So much time and effort goes into planning the event that happens once a year, but it takes a full year to plan it out perfectly so nothing goes wrong. It was an amazing event and experience to partake in as a young college student. Hopefully, that won’t be the last Komen event that I engage in as a PR person.

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Musings on Corporate Social Responsibility

By: Kate Walter

Often when asked which area of public relations I’m most interested in, I will respond by saying, “corporate social responsibility.”  As a person who regularly volunteers within the community (Junior League of Fort Myers, Gulf Coast Humane Society’s Fast & Furriest), encourages others to give back to charitable organizations (Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Relay for Life, Shy Wolf Sanctuary) whenever possible and believes in the overall good of humanity, the idea that corporations are beginning to place philanthropy in their overall business plans brings warm fuzzies to my heart.  But, should it really?

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Over the years many different definitions and models of CSR have developed.  Perhaps the most memorable (since it’s been a few years out of the classroom now) being Carroll’s CSR pyramid.  The pyramid acts as a building block, where companies would first need to lay a foundation of economic responsibilities before they can move onto the next tier of legal responsibilities, then ethical responsibilities and finally their philanthropic responsibilities. This model proposes that for businesses to get to a level where then can focus on giving back, they first have to take care of their economic bottom line. From a practical standpoint, the bottom line is what drives all businesses.  You can ask almost any CEO, Stakeholder, COO and especially a CFO, and they will most likely tell you that if a practice or strategic business plan does not inevitably benefit their bottom line, they are not going to move forward with it.

However, herein lies the problem with CSR, the debate between theory and practice. The fundamental ideal behind this theory is that businesses are doing good for the sake of doing good.  Not necessarily to benefit their bottom line, although studies have shown that by adopting CSR practices, companies do see an economic benefit.  But, in theory the bottom line should not be the driving force behind pursuing a CSR plan. ^ Orlitzky, Marc; Frank L. Schmidt, Sara L. Rynes (2003). “Corporate Social and Financial Performance: A Meta-analysis” (PDF). Organization Studies (London: SAGE Publications) 24 (3): 403–441. doi:10.1177/0170840603024003910. Retrieved 2008-03-07.)

And you may argue that whether the reasoning behind pursuing CSR is one of idealistic, delusions of grandeur of benefiting publics, or the corporate ideals of improving the profit margin of the business, as long as both are occurring, should it matter what the reasons are behind it?  Perhaps, not.

You might also argue, as Milton Friedman did, that a company actually benefits society more by focusing on the bottom line.  This company offers jobs, spreads wealth within the community and government, and has added time and resources to spend on CSR.  In fact, many of the companies that have notable CSR plans do tend to be large corporations such as Coca-Cola, Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks, that have the added finances to spend on developing CSR plans.  ^ Friedman, Milton (1970-09-13). “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-03-07.

Suffice it to say the debate will continue. But for me, I’m holding on to the warm fuzzies for a little while longer.

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The PR Life: One Perfect Work Day

Under the category “better late than never,” I decided to spend one whole work day following the rules I have been reading about for years.  And you know what?  This stuff really works – I had a delightfully fulfilling and creative day.  And all it took was listening to expert advice and acting accordingly!  Here’s what I did: Continue reading →

How’s your mental health?

We have all become used to news updates, warnings and helpful tips on physical fitness, but how often do we think about our mental fitness? Probably not too often.  But with National Depression Education and Awareness Week taking place now, this might be a good time to evaluate how you cope with stress, and to consider whether or not you are exhibiting signs of depression.

 Hows your mental health?

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From the PR Perspective: 5 Highlights of the Perfect Relationship

If you are in the business of marketing and/or public relations, you understand the value of building and nurturing relationships.

 From the PR Perspective: 5 Highlights of the Perfect Relationship

For most of us, five to seven years is the average longevity of the client/PR practitioner engagement — businesses change and grow, people move on and circumstances change. It’s always a little sad, but new opportunities come along and we begin anew.  For my practice, the best example is a client whom I have worked with for more than 11 years…a PR “love story” of sorts that started before the company’s birth and ends now more than a decade later as the company finalizes its sale to a larger corporate entity.

 From the PR Perspective: 5 Highlights of the Perfect Relationship

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