Phone calls and campaign books

This weekend has been one I’ll never forget. But let me provide some history first.

Two months ago, I had no idea where I would be starting May 17, the day following my graduation from the Manship School of Mass Communication. I weighed my options for full-time positions in Baton Rouge and on the Gulf Coast.

In the midst of job searching and networking events, I was trying not to become overwhelmed with the Bateman Competition. January through March now seem like an absolute whirlwind to me, and thinking about what our team of five women was able to accomplish at a university comprised of almost 30,000 makes me exhausted.

Delirium at its finest.

Delirium at its finest.

The news was officially released on Friday, March 21, that I am the inaugural Ruth Edelman/PRSSA National Award winner. Humbled is an understatement. This woman inspired anyone she came into contact with. She uplifted those around her, and she made them feel as though they were each critical to the vision of the company.

I applied on a whim. I read through the application once or twice in early December 2013. I counted myself out (almost entirely). There’s something odd and self-reflective about filling out applications. A fine line exists between boasting and identifying your talents within a maximum word count. I discredited my capabilities after a few first glances. Then, after a moment of clarity on a long run, I decided to just apply. The worst Edelman PR could say was no.

On Saturday, January 25, I began compiling a portfolio along with my application materials. I became disheartened again; I needed some reassurance. Jensen, my adviser for PRSSA at LSU and the Bateman Team, was quick to respond to my text asking for advice. After a phone call, I knew it wasn’t far-fetched for me to apply…or win.

I asked Jensen and a former women’s history professor for letters of recommendation. Both had letters ready to be picked up by Monday, January 27. The application was due to PRSSA National headquarters in New York by Friday, January 31.

On my way to the gym, I decided to send my completed application. The rest of the week was looking stacked, and I was concerned about the limited time frame. As I walked into UPS, the cashier asked if I was sending a package. My application was the last item picked up by the truck that evening — with five minutes to spare before closing time.

The winter months in Baton Rouge have been pretty dreary this year. On Tuesday, January 28, most roads were closed due to safety hazards. My application would not have made it to New York by Friday had I not dropped it off the night before.

I’m humbled to represent such an amazing woman and company. It kind of seems like fate, after all.

Aside from finding out where the next chapter of my life will be location-wise (Chicago), the 2014 LSU Bateman Team sent our campaign book to print yesterday. Ninety pages stacked with information about our campaign and its results — which are impressive, I might add — will be on its way to PRSSA National in New York this week. We have spent hours researching, planning, executing and evaluating throughout the last five months. There have been moments where I have felt totally inadequate, but I find those are the optimal opportunities for personal growth.

I’m exhausted, but I’m grateful.

Oh, and I’m happy.

Niches and pitches

Do you ever second-guess yourself? Does it ever become so overwhelming you have to perform positive affirmations to ensure you don’t drive yourself insane?

I do. I’ll admit it in a heartbeat. The beauty of being human is that we can learn and we can evolve. I’ve made mistakes that I’ll never forget as well as mistakes I can’t seem to remember — thank goodness. Mistakes have allowed me to learn and move on. I’m grateful for the mistakes I’ve made and the consequences that have followed.

What does this have to do with PR? Well. I could make a number of mistakes on a daily basis as a practitioner. I could easily pick the wrong niche or pitch the wrong pitch. I read a phenomenal article today about finding your niche in PR. The questions seem simple enough:

  • “When you’re not at work, what are you doing?” (Usually cooking or working out)
  • “When you’re reading articles or nonfiction books, what are they about?” (History, biographies of people I admire, best practices for my field, inspirational women, and Mississippi)
  • “What is your favorite way to spend your free time?” (With family, with my boyfriend, and with my friends; I also love being outside)
  • “If you could be anything in the world, what would you be?” (A good role model)

Which industries would I fit in best with? I’m not entirely sure. I’m hopeful that someone will be looking for a (enter commonly used adjectives here including but not limited to: motivated, unique, determined) team player with interests in American history, strong females, healthy lifestyles, the South and the field of mass communication.

Then the article continues to ask more PR-specified and skill-related questions. Those answers are really just for me to consider right now. I will say that I would much rather be proactive in my responses to crises versus reactive. Not all crises will be eliminated, but I’m going to be diligent in my attempts to alleviate probable issues.

Will I choose the wrong niche? Most likely. Will I pitch something that will rub someone the wrong way at some point? I’m sure. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that pleasing everyone will never be a reality. I’m willing to learn from my mistakes, pick myself up through affirmations, move on to the next project and leave my mark though.

I’m just telling a story

Public relations isn’t easily defined.

The name for the industry itself is a bit intimidating:

Public…which means people…lots of people…who need things…from me.

Relations…now I have to form relationships…with lots of people…who will need things…from me.

I attended the PRSSA 2013 National Conference in Philadelphia Oct. 25 – 29. Aside from climbing the “Rocky Steps” and visiting landmarks such as Independence Hall and Love Park, most of my time spent at the conference was in sessions learning about how to utilize my skill sets (or acquire new skills) to be the best PR practitioner I can be.

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I like the sound of that just as much as you do. What I actually learned, however, is that PR has gone through a complete metamorphosis within the last decade. “The press release is dead” is a phrase I read and hear often. I don’t believe that’s the case though.

From the various speakers I was fortunate enough to learn from, a common concern was that PR has shifted from an incredibly personal field where genuine relationships must be cultivated to ensure success to a seemingly virtual world of social networking to form short-term partnerships.

It could be argued that all relationships are now somewhat virtual. I can sift through my Facebook timeline and find out a friend from high school got married over the weekend in Fiji without having to speak to him/her. Congrats by the way.

My argument, however, is that the foundation and building blocks of public relations still exist. Ethical decision-making is key and fostering relationships with key publics will always be the goal. Another common theme I noticed at the conference is the idea of PR practitioners being the “storytellers” of the communication field.

We want to know your story and we want to share your story. First we may have to humanize your story and help you develop said story, but in the end it’s still a matter of us telling the story of you, your brand or your company.

Give me your story, and I’ll do my best to tell the world.

Why everyone needs (good) PR

What is Public Relations? 

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It’s simple really. PR acts as a bridge between an entity/person and its audience(s). We are the middle man. We break barriers that tend to build when communication (external and internal) is lacking. We attempt to avoid crises…but our methods aren’t foolproof. 

I love the field that I am gaining an education in. It’s fast-paced and constantly evolving. There’s nothing static about public relations. We are the people who are learning the importance of a simple tweet or Facebook post. We know how to break down the Return on Investment of free platforms which allow companies to interact with loyal customers. 

I find it’s tough to be confident about the field of PR as a budding practitioner. We catch flack for our positions within companies; not many people know (or care to know) about the importance of our insight. We have to be aware 100% of the time. Meaning we have to know the positives and negatives of the internal culture of the client as well as the external variables that exist. Hindrances are often and accolades are few. 

In all honesty, that’s what motivates me. I’m determined to prove why PR is integral to a successful business or simple venture. Social media is the forefront communication. I like to think that after several classes focused on social media, I know what’s going on without hesitation. That’s just not the case, though. Again…PR is fast-paced and ever evolving. Anything and everything will change from one minute to the next. Timelines are obsolete because there are no solidified predictions. 

I’m excited to see where PR will be in 5 years. I have a feeling we will become the go-tos versus the “what do you do?” 

Empowerment and whatnot

I never thought I was a “pretty girl” in high school.

To be completely honest, I didn’t give myself time to worry about what I looked like when I was at school. I knew what clothes I was going to wear (uniforms–dreaded khakis and navy/white polos) and hardly ever found the time to fix my hair in a reasonable fashion.

I wanted to give off the appearance that I didn’t need any type of positive reinforcement for how I dressed/looked/acted, but secretly I was desperate for turning heads and flirtatious glances. Again, I never thought I was “attractive.” I think that stemmed from going against the grain; I didn’t tan, I didn’t have to touch up my roots and I usually wore a sports bra to school.

I wasn’t doing this in spite of the status quo or societal norms. I just didn’t care or (again) didn’t have the time to be concerned. There was still that little voice in my head telling me I was missing out on something; I wasn’t asked on many dates and I usually went to dances with guy friends. I certainly didn’t date much, and I liked to make the excuse that I wasn’t interested in anyone.

I was one of the lucky ones, though. I had the opportunity to prove I was something other than “pretty.” I was always encouraged to challenge myself in other ways and pursue leadership opportunities when they presented themselves. (Thanks, mom.) I also like to think that I was freakishly mature in some ways, which made social settings kind of awkward.

Basically, I wasn’t hot by anyone’s standards. In hindsight, I’m kind of glad. I was able to be successful based upon my talents not easily seen at first glance. I was confident in my intellect and wanted to leave the place I called home to learn more. Again, I was one of the lucky ones.

What young girls need RIGHT NOW is for someone to tell them how special they are. It doesn’t have to be every minute or even every day, but it has to be said by someone other than the guy they have a crush on. Girls in middle school and high school need to know what they are capable of contributing to society–something other than a sexy body or pretty face. There isn’t enough genuine, authentic love represented in our culture (especially via reality TV).

No wonder girls are so quick to compete to be the “sexy” one at age…what…13? That’s atrocious. You can’t be sexy at 13.

So, from a woman who has found her confidence but still needs some encouragement:

  1. Embrace the awkward stage as much as possible.
  2. Life gets better after high school.
  3. Pick your passions and your role models wisely.
  4. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  5. Someone will appreciate you for your quirks one day, I promise.

There are websites and blogs devoted to being a smart girl and loving yourself. I would love to use my talents in social media and education in creating workshops that would encourage self-esteem and discourage irrational social media use in middle and high school-aged girls. We are all reporters and publishers in the world of social media, and we all disseminate information each day to our audiences. We have to hold ourselves accountable and work diligently to avoid future Steubenville cases.

If I had it my way

The following passage can be used as a) inspiration, b) a means to keep me on track and motivated or c) collateral…you choose.

I didn’t know that when I decided to major in Public Relations as an entering undergrad that it would be the perfect choice for me. Honestly, my mom told me to do it. Sharon knows best, after all.

I thought PR was this ultra-glamorous lifestyle, not a professional career. (Hence Samantha from Sex and the City) Public Relations is hard, people. There is no set-in-stone route; there is no sincere formula to ensure success. Every company is different and every client is different. In the same token, the fact that no boundaries (except for the ethical kind) exist makes me all the more excited to pursue a career in a field that is so fresh.

If I had it my way, my dream job would incorporate music, public relations (social media, strategic and event planning, etc.) and social activism to create awareness and advocacy for various issues facing the world today. I’ve always wanted to leave my mark while I’m here on earth. Let’s be real–80 years of life is a drop in the bucket in comparison to how long the Earth has been spinning on its axis.

One conundrum: I want to remain completely true to myself. I want to be able to face myself in the mirror each morning and think, “I’m doing something that matters and I’m fulfilled.” 

So what is my master plan? I don’t have one. I know what kind of music I love, I know what social media tactics to be aware of, and I know what issues I am passionate about. I suppose I’ll start there. (I’ve used first person quite a bit in this post; disregard the “I’s” and say “Dinosaur” while reading this if it gets boring or redundant.)

For now, I’m going to focus on the classes I am taking that will help me refine the skills I will use in my field, I’m going to keep listening to awesome music, and I’m going to keep blowing up Twitter and Facebook feeds with articles concerning gender equality, education, etc.