What I learned from Illinois State PRSSA

Me with some of my new friends at Illinois State University.

Me with some of my new friends at Illinois State University.

A few weeks ago, I was absolutely thrilled to visit the campus of Illinois State University and it’s nationally recognized PRSSA chapter. The visit was part of “March Brandness,” an extension of my CEO of You talks I’ve held via Skype and at various conferences.

This talk wasn’t something that was thrown together by ISU PRSSA, it was months in planning. It started back in December of 2013, when Hailey Lanier reached out, followed by Marrison Worthington, the chapter’s president and vice president, respectfully. After Skyping in to a chapter meeting (and getting jealous about the Jimmy John’s they were eating), I was able to see why they have been recognized as an award-winning group. When it was finally time for my visit, I was treated to, frankly, some of the more professional students and future pros I’ve ever met.

Here are three things I, ultimately, learned from my visit and being a Redbird for a day.

Proper Planning- From the moment I gave the thumbs up to visiting the campus, ISU PRSSA shared ideas on promoting the talk via email, Skype, and phone conversations. Planning is a key component of any successful event. If you haven’t planned for every possible contingency, something will go wrong. In this case, chapter leadership thought of everything. From transportation to campus visits, ISU PRSSA even gave me an itinerary of what the day would look like from the minute I landed to the day I left.

The Value of Mentors- One my first stops on campus was Fell Hall (the mecca of ISU’s Communications program). It was there I was introduced to, among others, Dr. Pete Smudde and Tom Lamonica. After talking to both gentlemen, I realized why the students held them in such high regard. They have taken a vested interest in the education and development of these students. They have helped to shape the future careers of many of the chapter members. Both also stressed the importance of the March Brandness event. Every student needs a mentor to give them support, honesty, and advice when necessary.

Show Off Your Surroundings- When I landed, I was greeted by Marrison and Hailey at the airport. Both ladies gave me the lowdown on Normal, Ill., including what businesses were based there, as well as a great understanding of the ISU campus. I was given a great tour by both ladies and then was joined by Ali Seys, who discussed the unique food truck, Two Blokes and a Bus. From there I was treated to lunch at the Pub II’s, with its outstanding cheese balls (and members of the e-board) and Sugar Mama Bakery’s delicious cupcakes. I felt as if I had been to campus and surrounding Normal before, thanks to how well the group educated me and helped me understand this great area. It also proved to me that working and living in a town or city is more than just saying, “I live in XX.” You should know as much as possible about your surroundings. It could come in very handy.

Ultimately, this trip also proved to me how outstanding PRSSA is. I’ve spoken to many chapters and students over the years; I have never, ever been disappointed in the passion, drive, and dedication each of these student show. Case in point, on April 9, it was announced that Illinois State’s PRSSA chapter was awarded a Pacersetter for the month of March 2014 from PRSSA National because of how well March Brandness went. I could not be more proud to have been part of such a great event with great people.

Big thanks also go to Ryan Smart, Melissa Fortes, Abby Brennan, Shelby Ray, and the many other great members that made this trip so memorable!

Learn more about Illinois State’s PRSSA Chapter by checking out their website.

 

 

Crisis Preparedness: Will you be ready?

[Jas' note: I'm happy to welcome Samantha Dickson to the blog with a timely guest post.]

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A quick glance at the headlines of any newspaper will tell a company that they should always expect the unexpected. Yet still, companies fail to realize the importance of preparation. I’m referring specifically to crisis management.

As PR professionals, we recognize our role within a company. We also see the value of our position when we are prepared for a crisis before it even strikes. So what happens when this forward thinking isn’t present? Negative brand reputation, drops in stock price, and loss of investor trust, just to name a few.

With such negative impacts on a company, it’s hard to imagine that some CEOs will still assume “Oh, that will never happen.” Sadly, it can, it will and when it does, you better be prepared. This is where the public relations role, and corporate communication position is of extreme value within a company.

Outline company threats.

In order to be prepared, a company needs to begin to analyze potential areas where a threat could arise. It is extremely important to understand your industry and what could be a problem for your company or client.

Crisis Planning.

Taking the threats that you’ve outlined above, the next stage would be to strategically plan how to deal with the crisis. This might include identifying your stakeholders, potential solutions, and how to work on brand recovery once the peak of the crisis is over.

Develop pre-crisis communication material.

It is imperative to have audience messages and material ready to be disseminated. If you can identify a large threat that will impact your company or client, develop some material that can be tweaked should the crisis occur. It is better to have something prepared than nothing at all. This might be the shell of a press release, a prepared tweet if it’s social media related, or a letter from the CEO. If you have this material in advance, you’re able to act more quickly in the moment of the crisis.

The brands that are able to recover from a crisis are the ones that have a plan in place. The key takeaway is to do your research. If a crisis does occur, take the time to do a post-analysis on implementation and effectiveness. It is important to see what worked, what didn’t and ways to improve in the future.

SamDickson

 

Samantha Dickson recently graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON with a B.A. in Political Science. She is currently a graduate student at New York University in Public Relations and Corporate Communication. In her spare time, Samantha writes for her blog One Heel Ahead, provides freelance communication services and loves to travel.

The JourneyCast Podcast with guest Katie Uhlaender

courtesy TeamUSA.org

courtesy TeamUSA.org

It’s not every day you get the chance to chat with an Olympian. I originally read about Katie Uhlaender’s story prior to the Sochi Olympic Games, due to her link with former Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Despite not medaling, she inspired many with her grace and toughness.

I was really honored to have had a chance to chat with Katie during a break from her duties at her farm. She shared her thoughts on farm life and her experiences in traveling around the world. Katie also touched on social media and that bond with Manuel, through her late father, Ted.

Katie is a great role model for hard work, dedication, and never giving up.

The JourneyCast Podcast, Ep. 6 with Katie Uhlaender

Let me know your thoughts on the podcast and leave a comment below.

You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Personal Branding: One Twitter Account is Enough

One of the more popular questions I get during my CEO of You personal branding talks is: “Should I have separate Twitter accounts for personal and professional?” It’s a great question because there are so many opinions on this. There’s the camp that states it is absolutely necessary to have both because you do not want to confuse followers about your brand. A recent article on “The Savvy Intern” blog stressed the necessity to have a recreational account for topics that aren’t “on brand.”  Tip of the blog cap to Reganie Smith (@ReganiePR) for sharing the post on Twitter.

managing multiple social accountsI fall into the other camp: I don’t think it is necessary to have two Twitter accounts. On full disclosure, I do have two accounts. One is for my business, JRM Comm; the other is me, @JasMollica. The difference, though, is that I don’t feel it’s essential for staying “on brand” to have a second account for myself. My JRM Comm account is strictly business; my @JasMollica account is a mix of professional and personal. Here are my reasons why you should focus on just one Twitter account.

  • Time- Regardless of whether you know how to use Tweetdeck, HootSuite, or Twitter’s app, it’s not easy to juggle multiple accounts. Focus your time on making your personal account great and show people you are worth the follow.
  • Confusion- One of the more important aspects of personal branding is giving people a good idea of who you are and what you do. If you have two accounts, who should I follow? The real person or the other account that just tweets business/career information? Don’t fall into the trap of being confusing. That only makes your brand clouded.
  • Transparency- I’ve stressed in many of my talks to students and professionals that the need for openness and transparency are essential. To me, multiple Twitter accounts do not help. I want to know who you really are… and so do other pros and potential employers. And, frankly, if you put the more personal tweets on another account, people will still find it.
  • Noise- We’ve all heard folks complain about too many tweets. Two accounts from one person adds to the Twitter noise. We see people tweet the same information, at the same time, from multiple accounts. That adds to the noise. Tweeting information that is valuable to your followers from one account cuts down on noise and confusion, too.
  • Personality- I’m in the camp that wants to see your personal side and that’s not to sound stalkerish. Before I hit follow, I look at what you’ve tweeted about. It gives me -and others- a better idea of who you are and what you do. If you posted something about last night’s hockey game, that’s great. We don’t, however, need to see the posts about beer pong or being hung over.
  • Smarts- Twitter and many other social networks may be free to sign up for, but they all require responsibility. You can make your one Twitter account great by just displaying some smarts. Don’t be so quick to hit that tweet button. Take a moment to consider your audience and your brand. Displaying smarts on your one account will go farther in strengthening your personal brand.

Focusing on your personal brand can be very difficult. The more honest you are with yourself and your audience, is not only great for your brand, it will be great for your career as well.

What are your thoughts on multiple Twitter accounts? Let me know in the comments!

The JourneyCast Podcast with guest Matt LaCasse

44424_4521832122001_1058374680_nMatt LaCasse and I are another example of developing a relationship from social media. I’ve (unfortunately) never met him in person, but have talked with him in every other way possible (except carrier pigeon and the string cup phone).

I’ve never been disappointed with something I retweet or share from Matt because I know he recognizes the importance of what he puts out on social networks. His only failing? Being a Chicago Cubs fan. Why do I pick on him about that? Because I’m a New York Mets fan.

In all seriousness, I’m really excited for everyone to listen to this episode with Matt because he shares some really great insight into how he started out in public relations, why he feels microvideo will dominate in 2014, and adjusting to being a parent and balancing work along with it.

The JourneyCast Podcast, Ep. 5 with Matt LaCasse

Let me know your thoughts on this episode, by leaving a comment below!

You can also subscribe to the podcast, via iTunes. 

JourneyCast Podcast with Jason Sprenger

Jason-Sprenger-250x300Episode Four of The JourneyCast Podcast features Game Changer Communications president Jason Sprenger.  I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Jason in 140 characters over the last few years. His focused insight with clients and the respect he has within the public relations industry is one we can all learn from.

Talking with Jason, I found a person who truly cares about his business and clients, but most importantly, not flying off the handle with opinions. He takes the time to really look into a topic, like his recent blog on social media managers. Without spoiling the post, it’s not what you normally expect. It’s one I really enjoyed and I think you will as well.

The JourneyCast Podcast, Ep. 4- Jason Sprenger

What did you think of this episode? Let me know in the comments below!

On your phone or tablet? Download the podcast on iTunes!

JourneyCast Podcast w/ Ben Butler

Late last spring, I had the chance to first chat with Ben Butler over Twitter. As we got to talking, I realized how incredibly prepared and focused he was. Ben interviewed me for his blog and we finally got to meet in person in October at the PRSSA National Conference. 

In this edition of the JourneyCast, I chatted with Ben about his start in PR, why he decided on a solo PR career, and what drives him every day.

The JourneyCast with Top Hat IMC’s Ben Butler

On your phone or tablet? Download the podcast on iTunes!

Ben Butler

Ben Butler

Guest Post: A Mentor That’s a “Grand Slam”

[Jas' note: I first met Corinthea Harris via Twitter and noticed she was at Rowan University. We then chatted at last October's PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. It turned out we had something in common (aside from being from South Jersey): A great mentor.]

After a whirlwind year – having three internships, trying my hand at being an RA, resigning from the RA position to take a career opportunity, realizing I graduate in May and so much more – and when I say what I’ve accomplished out loud, I sometimes ask myself how someone so tiny could handle such a large work load? How did I possibly handle everything on my plate at one time?

The answer: my grand-slam mentor.

mentorEnter Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA. Litwin acted as a teacher and mentor, won various public relations (PR) counselor and broadcast journalist awards, owned and operated Hello, Sports Fans!, umpired numerous baseball games and – most importantly – acted as a life coach to me and many other students and professionals.

I say grand-slam mentor and life coach because Litwin constantly went above and beyond. To prove it, I developed the following list of ways he helped me and others:

1. Available 24-7, like a true PR pro. No matter the task, Litwin had an ever-revolving door and inbox. He made time for his students in his office and answered emails even when he really didn’t have two seconds to spare.

2. Listened. Until Litwin, I hadn’t met a person who actually actively listened. He didn’t drop the conversation after you said what you had to say. Instead, he asked questions to figure out the next appropriate step. (And he had this ability to make you feel as though you were a top priority.)

3. Researched. Once he figured out what you wanted or needed, he would take you through a force-field analysis to ensure you made the best possible decision.

5. Stayed on top, if not ahead, of the industrySpeaking of research, Litwin kept up with the latest trends and best practices in the ever-changing strategic communication industry.

6. Taught real-world lessons. Litwin’s career accomplishments helped him teach real-world lessons in the class room and in advisement sessions. And he shared any new industry information he learned instantly. (Also, he wrote a book that acts as a go-to resource for many strategic communication professionals.)

7. Advanced students’ careersLitwin cared more about others than he did about himself. He constantly put others first and did whatever he had to do. With this mentality, you could put money on the fact that he had plenty of connections to various public relations professionals – which he selflessly shared with students to advance their careers.

Seven may not seem like enough reasons to proclaim someone’s record-breaking personality, but I can’t simply put into words the countless things Litwin did for me and other students – leaving a lasting impression.

And since Litwin advocated for baseball and sports, I figured my “grand-slam mentor” metaphor remained appropriate.

He definitely helped me navigate the bases of my college career, pre-professional career and sometimes my personal life. He truly umpired my life and helped me build my personal brand, so that I would have the confidence in myself to one day hit a home run on my own.

I will never have enough at-bat opportunities (words) to possibly hit enough home runs (thank yous) to repay him for everything he taught me. I can only hope other people have a chance to score a mentor like Litwin.

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Corinthea Harris is senior at Rowan University. She will graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in public relations and advertising. Currently, she is the Global Communications Intern at Campbell Soup Company. 

Improving Yourself as a PR/Social Media Pro

When it comes down to it, we don’t know everything (Captain Obvious statement). From time to time, we are challenged with strategies, tactics, and platforms that are new to us. So what do you do? While this may sound like an easy enough answer, finding trusted pros and avenues to get educated (or re-educated), can be tough.

improving who you areWhen I first started out in public relations, most of what I learned had to be self-taught. Even as I ventured into social media, much of the knowledge came from a little trial-and-error. As PR, marketing, and social media continue to evolve, we must do the same. I always quote friend and colleague Stephanie Florence and her “Student Always” mantra.  We can never stop learning; it is the only way to improve. I compare it to a baseball player taking extra batting practice or looking at game film.

Here are a few ways to continue to grow, whether you are a new or experienced pro.

  • Find pros that are learners, not Jedis- I’ve always appreciated pros that share what they’ve learned. They don’t tell you what you should know, they tell you what they continue to learn. People like Amber Naslund, Deirdre Breakenridge, Kirk Hazlett, and Chuck Hemann. They are always sharing what they’ve learned over the years, but they also soak up new ideas every day. It’s something to emulate.
  • Personal audit/SWOT analysis- This is something I started to do with students earlier this month. A personal audit can be valuable in getting yourself to take a critical look at your career. I do them every quarter to see if I’ve slipped, gotten better, or plateaued. The SWOT analysis is something I love to do. It forces you to pick out your weaknesses. But, it also shows where you may be missing the boat on something. Try it!
  • Twitter Chats- If you are on Twitter, it’s a good bet you’ve taken part in one or more since you’ve first signed on. What you may not realize is that these aren’t just chats, but virtual classrooms of learning. Whether it’s #PRStudChat, #CMGRChat, #NPPRSA, or #BrandChat, these gatherings of students and pros can be an invaluable tool to you. I’ve participated in all of these chats above and each time I do, I come away with something I can apply to my business and/or clients.
  • Lean on organizations like PRSA/PRSSA- Both have incredibly valuable opportunities to grow as a professional. If you can’t make it to a national conference, make sure to go through the websites and see what is being offered. PRSA national has a solid slate of webinars/events and PRSSA’s Progressions blog is a perfect mix of student and professional advice.  Your local PRSA chapter is also a great tool. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Social Media Club. They have many outstanding roundtable events that help to push the learning envelope.

If you don’t learn something new from the above, let me know where you are learning and how you are becoming a better pro.

The JourneyCast Podcast

iTunes podcast logo

In our careers, it is integral that we try new things to stay fresh. Last year, I did an episode of  what I called, “The JourneyCast.” I was thrilled Matthew Cerrone from Metsblog.com was kind enough to chat. Unfortunately, due to client work, scheduling, and life, the podcast didn’t take off like I wanted. Today, I’ve stepping back into the batter’s box and officially launching (or re-launching), “The JourneyCast Podcast.”

You can expect to hear folks in public relations, social media, marketing, blogging, and much more on my podcast. I don’t want this to be the typical question/answer interview. I love to just chat with people about why they love to do what they do, what they think about their industry, etc.

I’m glad my friend and colleague, Deirdre Breakenridge, agreed to be interviewed. She’s an inspiring person and someone many in our industry are well-aware of. However, Deirdre also continues to be a person we can depend on to hear what is really happening in the world of PR 2.0. Click the link below to listen.

The JourneyCast with Jason Mollica

You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment on Twitter, Facebook, or below. And thanks for listening!

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