Friday, December 12, 2008

Local Blogs Take The Stage

Cross-posted in the Zeno Group blog, Acropolis.

A few months ago, Los Angeles Magazine announced that downtown LA was named the “third bloggiest neighborhood” in the US. That’s a pretty cool claim to fame, if you ask me, but I have noticed that as local dailies die out, readers are turning to local blogs to get their news (or perhaps local dailies are dying out because people find more value in local blogs.)

Whatever the case, I moved to LA not too long ago and one of my favorite things about this city is the number of great local blogs. (I mean, West Linn, OR = cool, but newsworthy? Not so much, unless you count the occasional “a couple was caught being intimate on the baseball field” type stories – yes, that really was printed in the West Linn Tidings, and a friend of mine has the clipping hanging on her fridge if you’d like proof.) From LA Observed to LAist and a bunch of others, it is not hard to see why both print-affiliated and citizen journalists alike in LA are trading in their pens for Apples.

In fact, our dependence on local blogs has forced local dailies to hop on the blogging bandwagon as well, with most local papers having at least one (if not, several) affiliate blogs. This is smart for a number of different reasons:

  1. Local blogs are rapidly growing in both readership and sheer numbers;
  2. Blogs foster a two-way dialogue, whereas print publications are only one-sided;
  3. Blogs support the ‘eco-friendly’ direction our society is headed (aka, green is trendy);
  4. Blogs enable the 24-hour news cycle our now ‘always on’ society craves, especially during times of crisis (check out LA Now’s 24/7 coverage of the LA fires, for example);
  5. Blogs allow local dailies to push out their content in a variety of different ways (RSS, e-mail and Twitter, for example) instead of just via subscription.

A few weeks ago, Steve Rubel predicted that by 2014, we will see the end of tangible media as we know it. And that’s a modest prediction in comparison to MediaWeek, who foresees the fall of many local dailies by 2010. My first though was, “No way! Where would our credible news come from?!” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, yeah, maybe tangible media will die out in theory, but the big (smart) dailies will never go away; they will simply switch their focus online.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Barack the Vote: Social Media and the Internet in the 2008 Presidential Election

Last Saturday, my colleague Alex and I had the opportunity to attend the Election 2008 conference at the University of Southern California. The two panels we sat in on were entitled “Challenges for the New Administration and the Two Parties: POLITICO Editors and Reporters Look to the Future” and “Technology in Politics: How Campaigns Use the Internet to Talk to Voters.” Though the first was extremely interesting from a political perspective, the latter (and its focus on digital media) is what interested me most.

Over the past year, it was evident that online technology and social media played an integral role in the 2008 Presidential election, with some even claiming that the Internet won Barack Obama the election. Though I don’t personally agree with that bold claim, Obama’s use of the Internet and social media to mobilize and directly connect with supporters certainly helped.

What Obama Did Right

During the 2008 Election, Obama used social media in ways no other candidate ever has. Obama had a Facebook fan page with more than 3.2 million fans (Michelle also has her very own fan page), and a Facebook application with 164,551 subscribers. He had a MySpace page with more than 1 million friends. He even created his own social network, Some 3.2 million supporters donated to the Obama campaign through an excellent, well-maintained Web site. He had a Twitter account and tweeted frequently, ultimately becoming the single most followed entity on Twitter. His campaign launched an iPhone application (something that panelist Becki Donatelli admitted the McCain campaign was quite jealous of). He even announced his pick of Vice President via text message. Yes, now President-elect Barack Obama has made social media part of his everyday life (even post-election, when he took his weekly address online.)

It is clearly evident that times are changing - not only in Presidential campaigning, but in our overall media consumption habits as well. I credit Obama for thinking a few steps ahead of the rest, being the first Presidential candidate to launch a truly integrated campaign (and get it right). As one of the panelists on the above mentioned Election 2008 technology panel stated - Obama didn’t invent the technology; he simply perfected it.

What McCain Missed

Though some attribute McCain’s loss to his lack of engagement with technology, personally I don’t think it was his lack of using the technology (he did, after all, have a Facebook fan page, a MySpace page, and a Twitter account, to name a few); it was more a matter of his objective (which, unlike Obama seemed to be a means to an end instead an end itself). We heard it in nearly every public speech and interview made - “McCain has the experience” - and along with his experience in office, he also has more experience campaigning, even being directly involved in the 2000 race for the Republican Presidential nomination against George W. Bush. Though he lost the race, he did learn a lot about campaigning in the process, taking those lessons and applying them to the race in 2008. However, McCain seemed to have taken the wrong lesson out of 2000, focusing more on the end result (ie, media relations and generating positive press coverage) and not enough on connecting directly with supporters.

Obama, on the other hand, brought excitement to the grassroots approach. To him, it was important to go straight to the people, not the media, and the Internet served as a key player in helping him do so.

Will TV ads (and traditional media) become obsolete?

The recent hype around Obama’s use of online and social technologies makes this question seem more real then ever - will TV ads become obsolete in future elections, being replaced solely by online initiatives? While some think yes, a few of the panelists surfaced an interesting perspective - offline ads help drive people online.

Take a look at the sheer numbers - TV ads are not becoming irrelevant anytime soon, and candidates are still focusing heavily on paid advertising (in addition to his online initiatives, Obama also bought half-hour primetime segments on CBS and NBC less than a week before the general election, for example). TV ads may be diminishing in importance, but it will be a long time before they completely go away. However, the panelists pointed out that now, we are seeing more of an online/offline plan. Online and social technology and traditional media serve completely different purposes - the Internet is used to activate the base and raise funds, then the money raised is being used to get people sitting at home on their couches to go online. It is now vital to synchronize both and integrate into one solid campaign.

Looking ahead to 2012/16

During the conference, one panelist made the bold claim that by 2016, campaigns will no longer exist in brick and mortar buildings; instead, they will exist solely online. Though traditional advertising will still play a dire role in campaigns, social media will become increasingly important to candidates seeking election as it becomes more mainstream. Due to both advances in technology and a growing number of media outlets for people to choose from, it will become vital for candidates to have a short, buttoned-up message.

Moving forward, Presidential candidates won’t be the only ones to use social media in campaigns; candidates at the local level will begin to jump on board as well. Campaigning via social media is cheaper, more effective, and easier to mobilize a core group of constituents to act.

Last, technological advances like TiVo and XM Radio have empowered consumers to choose what information they want to receive. Often, the casual constituent (or as Joel Benenson calls them, the “Up-for-Grabs” voter) doesn’t hear political messages via TV and radio ads; they hear about them through YouTube videos or e-mails and SMS videos forwarded by their friends. It is now important for candidates to broadcast their message across as many different channels, in as many different ways as possible to reach that casual constituent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Search for Social Media

Cross-posted in the Zeno Group blog, Acropolis.

As a member of the Zeno Group Digital Lifestyle team, I feel that it is my duty to help engrain social media into our everyday PR lifestyle. So, for this past week’s Zeno LA “Happy Half-Hour Friday,” it was my turn to put my party-planner hat on, creating our first ever Social Media Scavenger Hunt! I think the digital lifestyle team was a little more excited about this than, say, our business manager, but overall the event was a great success.

The scavenger hunt featured several different social networking tools (Facebook, Digg and Twitter, to name a few) and called for participants to not only learn about them, but take the extra step and interact with each other using these tools. For example:

  1. Sign into Twitter and create a Tweet using the #ZenoLA hashtag.
  2. Now, respond to one Tweet that another Zeno LA employee posted.
  3. Post an insightful comment on one of your favorite PR blogs. Which blog did you choose to comment on?

Of course, this was not meant to be a full training on all the social media tools available, but rather a fun way to expose the office to some of the new tools and apps available. (For example, most PR professionals know about Twitter, but many might not be aware of the long – and growing – list of apps that are available for it).

Broadening the scope of this post a bit, we are entering into an era where it is important for everyone in PR to at least be familiar with the basic social media and networking tools. By now, many PR professionals are aware of the ‘biggies’ (i.e., what they should pay attention to), but many have not taken the time to actually learn about and understand them (let alone start using them). Simply creating a Twitter ID and tweeting once or twice isn’t enough anymore; smart PR people should take it one step further and engage with the community on a regular basis, especially if it’s something that might make sense for a client down the road. At the same time, it’s okay to focus your attention on a select number of tools after you’ve explored all of the options. If you try Friendster but realize, “hey, maybe this one isn’t for me,” that’s okay! At least you took the time to figure it out.

On a different note, I encourage you to implement a social media scavenger hunt in your own office and share the results in the comments section below!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Let's Hear It for the Women

Cross-posted in the Zeno Group blog, Acropolis.

Whenever I was asked the question “Who would you most like to have lunch with” in elementary school essays, my default answer was Steven Spielberg (what 10-year-old child aspires to have lunch with a popular film director over Jonathan Taylor Thomas, I do not know, but apparently I did). Fifteen years later, if you asked my now more grown-up and professional self the same question, I’d have to say Google’s Marissa Mayer. Hands Down.

On Tuesday, FastCompany’s Saabira Chaudhuri published an article on the “Most Influential Women in Web 2.0” (which, of course, includes Ms. Mayer). Though the article picked up a lot of heat throughout the blogosphere, with some calling the author “sexist” for not also including men, I believe it’s about time women are recognized for their great achievements in Web 2.0.

From Arianna Huffington who created what is now the most popular blog on the Web, Huffington Post, to Ning’s Gina Bianchini, the outstanding women featured in this article have all made great strides online during a time when women are finally beginning to put the “housewife in the kitchen” stereotype behind them. Truth be told, it can be fairly intimidating competing and interacting with the “big boys” online. These women offer great advice, such as “you need to stick your neck out there and just do it in order to be successful.” (Cyan Banister).

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, it is nice to read about and celebrate the achievements of women who have made great strides in the online environment. As Marissa recommends, it’s important for women to find a company that fosters “an environment where people will invest in you.” I’ve found this to be so true and important to my growth as a digital media professional. For me, with Google and Marissa as examples, nothing is impossible.

Photo Credit: dfarber on Flickr

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This is TOO Cute!

I just had to share this picture with you all :) (If you own a doxie, like me, you will likely find it extra funny). Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

SO Social... 2.0 Style

I just created a profile on Savvy Auntie, an online social network specifically for Aunties. I suppose this now gives me bragging rights for my adorable niece and nephew (pictured below - I tried relentlessly to talk my sister into creating her own blog this past weekend, but she just 'didn't get the point, when there's Facebook...')

This is one of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of niche networks popping up all over the Web. The common trend of our generation has been to join as many of these communities as applicable in efforts to stay connected, build relationships, learn, and offer advice & peer counsel. Wait, back up. For centuries, people have always longed to belong to communities, joining groups and associations for essentially the same reasons. Web 2.0 simply offers these niche groups the tools to bring activities online. So does that mean the offline community no longer exists? No way, but it can have more members and communication methods than ever before.

Other niche networks I belong to... How about you?
  • PR Open Mic - A fabulous online community for PR students and professionals.
  • MyRagan - An online community for communicators.
  • LinkedIn - Is this really 'niche' anymore?
  • BlogHer - A social community for female bloggers.
  • LiveMocha - Online community for language learners.
  • Action Profiles - Community for boarders (snow, skate, surf, etc..) Good for connecting riders with sponsors, or riders with boarding buddies.
  • Yelp - My favorite online reviews site.
And the cuties? They're below :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

This Is Great

A bit of humor to jump start your Friday afternoon :) Classic commentary on our generation, although I think it's already a bit outdated (I mean, come on; where's the blackberry?!)

Photo curteosy of

Great Job Hunt Advice

Really great post from one of my former classmates on how to build your network prior to the job hunt. Her advice helped her land a job at a fab agency within one week of moving to a new city!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History in the Making

8.5 years ago, our country nearly encountered a global crisis.  In the face of Y2K, many people truly believed the end of the world was just a few weeks away.  I, on the other hand, wanted to do something great.  Yes; I wanted to be the very first person this century to do something.  After days of contemplating, I finally decided upon my infamous task: I decided that I would be the first person in America to flush a toilet.  

Looking back through history, our country is characterized by a fear of the unknown.  The unknown that, 'hey, maybe the world isn't flat,' to 'hm.. do you think consumers are finally sick of us shouting?'  

Tonight, another unknown event went down in history; the election of Barak Obama as President.  As much as I'd like to say, 'woo hoo! This cat-fight election is finally over!' I'll leave it at my take-aways from Y2K that seemed oh so long ago: Yes; change is scary.  But in times of change, one thing remains constant - change brings about a world of opportunity.  Americans found an opportunity to explore the world, from one end and right back home again.  Web 2.0 allowed companies the opportunity to personally connect with consumers, instead of shouting at them.  And Barak Obama?  He has the opportunity to turn this country around, if only we remain optimistic.  

And Y2K?  Well, that made me a legend ;)  Will you be the first to flush a toilet in this new age?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Could the Collapse of the Magazine Industry be Upon Us?

I may have put my foot in my mouth when I wrote this post... because, just a few days later, I read this in the Huffington Post. Yes, it's true, Radar Magazine and Radar Online have folded. Though the magazine seems to have steady readership, both in print and online, and was even nominated for a National Magazine Award, it failed to meet financial expectations. The print version of the magazine will be discontinued, while it's online counterpart is being sold to AMI and will likely exist as somewhat of a TMZ-type site.

I still hold true to my claim that magazines offer the depth of coverage that blogs simply can't provide and thus won't completely abandon print in favor of fancy, interactive Web sites anytime soon, however with a 9.5% drop in magazine ad revenue this past year, investors are begining to lose faith that the industry will remain monetizable.

While I personally hope that magazines continue to stay afloat, this is proof that advertisers are begining to follow customers' desire to go digital and looking to spend more of their dollars online. In this industry and amidst Web 2.0, the magazines that will win are the ones who can show advertisers that print offers true value that digital sites can not.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In the Changing Media Landscape, Will Magazines Become Extinct?

Following last week's Politics 2008 event, PRSA posted a great summary of the Keynote Roundtable discussion, entitled, "The Changing Face of News: The Power, The Influence and the Challenge of the Future."

In recent conversations, many have cited increasing online readership and decreasing revenue as evidence of the fall of print... but what about the magazine industry? (In fact, the above noted PRSA article mentions an interesting point: During the panel, Time magazine's Richard Stengel has become "a digital publication that puts out a weekly print publication" in efforts to adapt to new media.)

As more readers turn to the Web to get their daily dose of news, one might expect that magazines would be forced to adapt too. However, Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair noted that magazines and the new digital news are nearly completely separate industries. He said, "The one thing a monthly magazine can do is be slower and tell a story because there is so much information and everything's so fast, that if you compete with the notions of speed or immediacy or just information, you lose to the Internet." Interesting, but a great way of viewing the situation.

Looking at my own media consumption, I realized that I, too, use new and traditional media for different purposes - I like receiving up-to-date news via my RSS, and I like the opinionated slant some bloggers take, but nothing will ever take the place of a good "old-fashioned" eight page spread in Newsweek. Fear not, my friends - magazines are here to stay.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Power of Web 2.0

My Blog Action Day post from the ZENO Group blog, Acropolis:

Today is Blog Action Day, a day where thousands of bloggers worldwide will come together and write about poverty. We all know poverty is a big problem. Here in Santa Monica, for example, 277 people were considered homeless at the turn of the new year. 277 – That’s huge in comparison to Santa Monica’s relatively small size (pop: 87,212). While providing a real solution to poverty is critical, what inspires me is the way the event organizers are engaging the blogosphere in efforts to bring this pressing issue to the masses.

As we continue to evaluate the reach and effectiveness of non-traditional media outlets, many clients still put their faith in the traditional. We continually ask ourselves which is better – a small hit in The Wall Street Journal or a story in TechCrunch? Most would prefer The WSJ, largely because the reach is predictable and measurable, so blogger relations programs tend to be the first thing cut out of PR plans as budgets tighten. But another question to ask is, can bloggers act as a means to an end, instead of just an end in themselves? Last year’s Blogger Awareness Day proved YES, as the campaign was picked up in traditional outlets such as BBC, Reuters, FOX, Sydney Morning Herald, and Kathimerini Greece on an international scale – a reach far beyond expectations with relatively little financial investment. That’s the power of social media for you. And this year’s event, with 11,438 bloggers participating, is expected to generate a minimum of 12,437,788 impressions based on RSS numbers. By comparison, an article in USA Today would generate 2,284,219 impressions, but with nearly 13 million people reading about it on the Web, well, what traditional outlet wouldn’t want to tag along?

It is interesting to look at how social marketing has evolved throughout history, and how social media is feeding into this evolution. I can only think of a similar campaign that might have been initiated 10 years back – Smart PR person instigates Poverty Awareness day. Savvy PR staff organizes an event and writes a press release. Desperately-wanting-to-get-hired interns rigorously pitch the event to mainstream media outlets. Poverty Awareness Day garners international coverage and is a huge success. 700 more smart PR people catch on and do the same…

This campaign, however, is innovative, largely because it hasn’t been done before, and it has the potential to be more effective taking into account the discussion element (something traditional media lacks). Kudos to the organizers for taking an innovative approach to poverty; this truly showcases the power Web 2.0 has to reach the masses.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Paris is... Painting the White House 'Pink'?!

I'm sure you've all heard about McCain and Obama's new competitor. That's right, Paris Hilton takes the stand and is now in the running for President... or for "Fake President," that is.  Her fake campaign is not what I would call sincere, and obviously just her way of retailating McCain's recent commercials, but the PR side of me questions her motives in 'running' - to gain publicity for Obama, or for herself... or to bring more young people to the poles, if I dare ask?  

Despite my, well, less-than-love (if you will) for Paris, she does make some good fake points in her fake press interview - "Nowadays sound bytes, not sound policy, determine our country's course" she boasts.  Hm... I suppose there is some good truth to that statement, especially looking at how recent media coverage is affecting poll results and political chatter.   

On a broader note, there's been a slew of celebs jumping on the political bandwagon - Leo and camp, and P. Diddy for starters.  I'm interested to see how the combination of celebrities and their use of social media will affect this year's general election, especially amongst young voters.  Oh, and Paris? Can't wait to hear more about your "FoPo" plan; you've got my vote. 

Now, one last video to leave you with - "Does Celebrity Endorsements Matter in Politics" (Please don't fault me for bad grammar, it was contextual!) :)  What do you think?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My New Job!

After a long few weeks, application after application, interview after interview (and plenty of "You're a great candidate, but we're just not hiring"s) I am excited to announce that I am finally employed!  I interviewed a few different places and received a coupe of different offers, but ultimately decided to go with a small firm called Zeno Group (owned by Edelman).  I was very attracted to the small agency environment, intelligent employees, and creative work they generate for clients; and their stellar work in Web 2.0 was icing on the cake.  But the best part?  The LA office is 4 blocks walking from the Santa Monica pier ;)  My first day with the firm was Wednesday, and I love it so far!  I'm an AE in their Digital Lifestyle Group, so moving forward I'll be doing mostly digital campaigns for a variety of different consumer and tech. clients.   

I'll keep you all posted :)  Oh, and check out Zeno Group's blog, Acropolis, located here.  Another good one to check out: The Digital Deep, written by my new colleague, Nick.

PS: Thanks to everyone who helped and supported me throughout my job search; couldn't have done it without you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Social Surfing

The past few weeks, I have been trying to learn how to surf (no, not the Web... like, the actual sport.)  But I'm really bad at it (like, really bad), so after a few failed attempts I finally did a YouTube search for videos on "how to surf."  Through my search, I came up with this series of viral videos by Florida Surf Lessons.  Not only were the videos very informative, but the series is an example of a company that really understands both it's consumer-base and the power of viral video campaigns.  

If you think about surfing, what age group comes to mind?  Well, aside from the occasional 60-year-old going through a mid-life crisis, the majority of people looking to take surf lessons is likely the younger age group... the group that is most engaged in social media.  So naturally, a viral video campaign would work well for a surf shop.  And the 'how to' format of the videos are great for anyone who is just starting out.  The videos are short, sweet and to the point, and at the beginning of each segment the instructor says his name, company, location and Web address.  Obviously a viral marketing tactic created by the company, but very tactfully used.  

UPDATE:  So I spent the day surfing yesterday in Santa Monica, and I used the advice from these videos - they worked!  I actually caught waves!  I am now an enthusiast :)  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bake Your Network From Scratch

As we begin the long transition from college into the professional world, the number one thing we are told is build your network, build your network, BUILD YOUR NETWORK!  (OK, we get it already!)  But what if, a few years down the road, we decide that the place we built our network isn't quite right?

OK, take me for example: I attended college in Oregon and was actively involved in PRSSA, PRSA and AHPR, attending meetings and conferences on a regular basis.  Through these organizations I was able to build a solid network in Oregon throughout college, so when it came time for me to look for jobs in Portland all I had to do was call up a few of the people I had networked with!  Landing a great job seemed almost too easy... 

But job-hunting in LA has been a bit frustrating for me, largely because I haven't had a chance to build a network down here.  Sad, but true, that our resumes are worthless unless we can get them in front of the right people.  And that usually takes knowing someone.  Aka, networking.  While job hunting in LA over the past month, I have picked up a few good techniques to build a network... from scratch.    
  • Join a local PRSA chapter as soon as you arrive in your new town.  Begin attending meetings, and let it be known that you are an excellent candidate on the prowl.    
  • Pick up the phone.  Call companies you are interested in and ask to set up a time for an informational interview.  Most companies, even if they aren't hiring, won't say no.  And if you wow them during the interview, any smart company will try to make room for you.  
  • If the prior fails, try turning to social media.  More and more companies are begining to use social media to find qualified candidates, and if you are active in the social space it could work to your advantage.  I found several jobs I applied for through LinkedIn, and I even spent some time browsing LinkedIn Exec. resumes to surface good companies in the area.  
  • Start your own blog.  As more clients are beginning to ask their agency counterparts for social media guidance, having a knowledge of social media is a huge value that young professionals can bring to an agency environment.  And there is no better way to showcase your knowledge than by blogging about it.        
  • Ask former coworkers, friends - anyone - if they know someone in PR and if they wouldn't mind sharing the person's contact info. with you.  For example, my roommate (who has nothing to do with PR) mentioned she knows a guy in PR, and two days later I had an interview!  I never would have even thought to ask her, so sometimes the least likely people can have the best connections.  
  • Last but not least... Building a network from scratch is hard work, and it takes some time.  Don't expect to move somewhere and get a job right away, but definitely do all you can to build your network prior to relocating.  

Thursday, September 11, 2008

For the Pros or All Age-Olds?

Last night as I was spending some time blogging, my roommate came into the kitchen (yes, I write in the kitchen) and our conversation went something like this:

My RM: "Whatcha doing?"
Me: "Writing in my blog."
My RM: "Blog? What's that?" (It took all my strength to not respond Really?! Did you not grow up in the 21st century?!)
Me: "Well, a blog is like..."
My RM: (Looks over my shoulder) "Oh my gosh, are you writing about smart people stuff?! You nerd!"
RM exits scene to the left.

For those of us who work in tech. PR - or PR in general for that matter - social media such as Web blogs and Twitter have become second nature.  Example: I used to get my daily news from television, and maybe the occasional newspaper (when I felt like sifting through one ;) ).  But now I get nearly all my news sent straight to my RSS feed and Google Reader.  Social media has, in a sense, become part of my daily routine.  I wake up, check my Google Reader, then my facebook, head to work (ok, well let's pretend like I actually have a job for this post), start up my computer, sift through my target influential blogs for news that may have posted over night, send a good-morning e-mail to the analyst whose blog post I particularly enjoyed reading, jot down a few morning thoughts into my own blog, IM a coworker (whose desk is likely not more than 20 feet away) in search of a 10am coffee break buddy, respond to a tweet StaceyPR posted about her "manic Monday morning," open up a pitch saved in SkyDrive I had been working on from home the night before, add a few more things to my "To Do" Google widget...  Oh my gosh I could go on forever, and it's not even noon!  But then again, if you're reading this, you probably have already had a day similar to mine.  

But reflecting upon my pre-PR days, I can only barely remember a much different schedule (which probably actually included picking up a copy of the Register-Guard, since I didn't have cable, throwing rocks at tweeters, and poking my crushes in person).  So could it be that the PR and tech-savvy are just ahead of the times?  

On the contraire, could it just be that social media is so ingrained in our lives that we don't even think twice?  Could it be that when people, like my roommate, visit sites like LAist and MSNBC, they don't realize that they're looking at blogs?  I went to college just as social media was beginning to emerge (ah, I remember the article I wrote for the PRSSA newsletter once upon a time entitled, plain and simple, "What's a blog?"  I barely even knew what I was writing about at that point in time!  Oh, and does anyone remember the first facebook, where the wall was just a solid block with text?!  Come on, don't make me feel too old...)  Fast-forward three years, where 1 in 4 online Americans, according to Forrester Research, read blogs, social media and many social apps have become mainstream for many (particularly those younger than my age group).  But they still have a long way to go before they become the norm for everyone.  Aka, those 3 out of every 4 Americans who don't read blogs.  Heck, I just helped my grandma set up an e-mail address!    

Anyway, I feel like I'm running around in circles right now, but now that you've heard my thoughts, what do you think?  Are blogs and other social apps becoming mainstream?  Or are they still only for the PRos?  

**A third alternative - Maybe I just need to give my "behind the times" roommate a lesson or two in blogging :)  


Monday, September 8, 2008

PR and Politics

I just got back from a weekend of sightseeing in Washington DC, which I think merits some sort of political PR post, wouldn't you agree?

This was my first trip out to see the East Coast (well, unless you count the PRSSA National Conference in Miami or the 10 hours I spent on layover in the Phili airport) and I have to say, I was quite impressed!  Traveling Europe inspired me to want to see more of my own country, and what better place to start than DC?  It was nice to spend some time in our nation's capital, doing some sightseeing, etc. (although, I have to say, the White House was quite a bit smaller than I had originally anticipated).  But all in all, seeing the great monuments and learning a bit about the history helped me find a renewed faith in my country, and I was inspired to immerse myself in politics once again (it was, after all, my minor).  

As I mentioned in an earlier post, while in France I was surprised at how interested and engaged in politics everyone seemed to be.  Our dinner conversations centered around questions on my views toward certain American policy issues, or the political agenda of Nicolas Sarkozy.  Even most of the young people I met fired off political questions.  But of course, when I mentioned I was American many people would immediately bring up Barak Obama... the celebrity.

This election sure has been an interesting one, and more hyped than any I can ever remember (which, granted, account for maybe 2 past Presidential elections...)  Whatever happened to fair and balanced political news coverage? (um, take last night's VMA show for example?)  Now a days, while most people can ramble on about Hillary's 'incredible' fashion sense or the exact size of Palin's cinnamon-roll bun, if you ask someone about Obama's main platform points you're likely to hear something along the lines of, "um, change?"  The media is so drawn to the drama in elections that they fail to provide the American public with an accurate view of  the issues our potential leaders stand for and how they will use their time in office.  And as a consequence, the Paris vs. Nicole-esque media coverage is pulling, not only GOP and Dems, but also like parties apart instead of uniting us as a nation.  

But to a second degree, I don't completely fault the media.  This is what we want to see and hear about, right?

If the candidates want to really connect with the people in the upcoming election, they need to break through the media hype and show constituents what they're really about.  Meaning, their publicists need to work overtime.      

Monday, August 25, 2008

That Was Easy...

I love this commercial.  Staples did a great job poking fun at a current issue - in this case, the gas crisis.

Random fact - For Christmas a few years ago, someone gave me an easy button :)  I've never tried it at Staples, but it definitely didn't do me justice during the after-Christmas sales rush :/  Great marketing ploy, though!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vote in PRWeek's Blog Competition!

Every new professional has at least a couple of highlights in his/her first year of work experience.  A great compliment from a client, a stellar presentation, an outstanding hit in BusinessWeek (or in the Wichita Eagle if you're really ambitious). :)  Well, I have a career highlight of my own to share, and it comes in the form of an e-mail sent to the EVP of my account:

From: Frank Shaw
Subject: This is cool


Wait a minute.  Back up.  Did Frank Shaw really find my blog... and say it was cool?!  

Anyway, starstruck awe aside, working at WE I was inspired by someone new on almost a daily basis.  But no one inspired me more than Frank.  Smart guy, great speaker, fantastic leader, and... great blog!

PRWeek is holding a competition to honor the outstanding PR blog, and Frank's blog, Glass House, made it to the quarterfinals.  As a young professional, I enjoy reading Frank's blog because he discusses everything PR, from politics to the evolving media landscape and nature of the PR practitioner.  This week, Glass House is up against Rohit Bhargava (also a great blog), so make sure you go vote!

PRSA meets Media Relations

I really hate to admit this - I've been a member of PRSA for nearly a year and haven't been to a single meeting.  Not that I haven't wanted to go to meetings, because I have.  In fact, while working at WE I asked my manager nearly every week, "so there's this meeting next week, and it would require me to take a bit of an extended lunch break..." but for some reason or another, something always came up on the day of the meeting (we all know how PR agencies work...)   

Now that I am starting fresh in LA, however, I finally attended my first meeting tonight!  A PRSA Young Professionals meeting.  Topic = "The Perfect Pitch."  I was surprised at how nicely this meeting was put together.  There were three speakers - an SAE from The Rogers Group, an SAE from GolinHarris, and the communications director for the Vice Provost at USC.  It was arranged as a panel discussion, and a YP board member moderated the conversation.

Now, I know we've heard all the pitching tips a million times over, but I personally think that young PR professionals can't get enough advice from the media experts.  Every PR Pro has a different take on pitching and has developed his or her own, unique style over the years.  (And hey, the last thing any of us wants is to have an e-mail we wrote end up in the Bad Pitch Blog.)

Some interesting pieces of advice the professionals shared during the meeting...
  • Best to send an e-mail first, then follow up with a phone call.  But make sure you leave at least 24 hours between contact attempts!  And never call from an unavailable number.
  • Direct mail is so out.  But sometimes (on occasion) a handwritten note can have a nice impact.
  • The FIRST question you should always ask is - "Are you on deadline?"  If so, make sure to ask what time is best to call back.
  • Jot down the 3 points you want to get across during the conversation.
  • Make sure you fully understand the pitch before you call.
  • Put some thought into your subject line, and don't begin with "press release" or "media alert" - you are only wasting space.  
  • Never send a press release to a blogger.
  • And of course, the number one rule we all should know - Do your research before you pitch!  Does the reporter have a blog?  What is he/she interested in?  Will he/she actually write?  Etc..

Now my call to action for all you young professionals out there: Join this group!  Go to these meetings!  They will be well worth your time, weather you have a job or not.  

PS: If you have a good media relations tip to share, leave a comment!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Generation Divides

On Sunday afternoon I went to Torrance to have lunch with my grandma, and she said something that was just too cute not to share.  While telling me about my uncle's great new job, she said, "And they bought him a car, and a gas card, and a blueberry!"  A blueberry?!  Oh grandma...     

Monday, August 11, 2008

What I've been up to... And where I've been

Dear Blog,

OK, don't say it... I know I haven't written in 2 months (I'm sorry!), but did you really expect me to blog in Europe?!  OK, well, we have a lot of catching up to do!  Where do I begin?

As you know, I moved to LA (LOVE it so far!) then went to Europe for a few weeks.  How can I even put Europe into words?  Or into one single blog entry, anyway.  I'll try my best, and take a few excerpts from my e-mails back to my family (they haven't quite caught onto blogging yet).  

I began my trip in Italy to visit my friend Shannon who had been living in Brescia for the past 9 months (although she has since moved back home due to shady Italian politics).  We travelled around a bit together and saw so many amazing things, including The Palio in Siena (amazing!) and a few nearby countries.  

But what I was most excited for was France.  Several years ago I had a French Exchange student named Elen live with me for about a month, and I have always wanted to go to France and visit her.  I took the train from Italy to Grenoble, where she had just finished up school, and we drove across the country a few days later to Vannes, in Brittany (the upper-west coast of France).  

We got into Vannes around 8pm, just in time for dinner!  We spent some time chatting with her family, then sat down for dinner around 9.  For dinner, Elen's mom brought out cheese, a huge salad, and several types of finger foods.  I was thinking, 'OK, this isn't so bad, not too full.'  Then after we were done and the table was cleared, she brought out MORE food, this time our own personal huge bowls of seafood in this amazing creme sauce and a side dish of rice.  After this was cleared, she brought out the cheese, a plate of about 10 different kinds, and bread.  Then came the desert, then the fruit, and last but not least, the coffee and the chocolate.  The meal lasted 3 hours and was a time for the family to sit and talk.  I was thinking this was just a special occasion for Elen's return home, but nope, pretty much every meal (even lunch and breakfast) followed this template.  After dinner, a nice family + Andrea walk through the town (which was so cute!) then finally bed around 2.

One difference I noticed about France versus the US is that the pace of life is so much slower.  Elen said to me many years ago that it is funny how people pass each other in the halls on their way to class and say, 'hi, how are you?' but don't even stop to chat.  I now understand her observation, because when people stop to chat in France, they have an actual conversation.  Life moves leisurely and the French enjoy every moment of it.

Along the same lines, the French work ethic is also much different.  Whereas many Americans live to work, the French work to live, and they enjoy every minute of their 6-8 week government supported vacation.  (In fact, at first I thought that the French didn't work at all, until I realized that the country was just beginning a 3 week vacation.)  Every time I mentioned that most Americans get 2 weeks vacation at best, jaws dropped around the room.  

I was also surprised how interested in politics young people are in France.  The first thing anyone said to me when I mentioned I was American was, 'America?  Ah, Barak Obama!'  And of course the political questions would follow.  So much for immersing myself in French politics during my stay!  

After a few days in Brittany, Elen and I headed to Paris to stay with her friend Magalie for a few nights, then with her brother for a few days in the suburbs.  Paris, of course, was amazing.  We saw all the sights, and even took a sight-seeing boat trip along the river.  On Bastille Day, we went to Elen's brother's friend's house, which had an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower, to watch the fireworks.    

I could go on for hours, but I'll spare you the time and end with only one Paris paragraph. :)

When I returned home, I spent a few days battling a 103.1 degree fever and a horrible stomachache.  But on a more optimistic note, I was glad the fever didn't come a few days sooner!

Now that I am back in the US (and finally well) and have had a few weeks to settle into my new city and visit with old friends and family members, I have focused the majority of my attention to the job search.  I have to admit, the time off has been nice, and well-deserved, but I don't know how much longer I'll be able to last without a job!  (Financially, obviously... but I'm bored!)  I'll keep you updated as the search continues, but for now...