Life After Graduation

FrontGradSorry for the time away my friends. Since last writing a few things have changed…to say the least.

I’ve finished university and graduated with concurrent degrees – a Bachelors of Science in Journalism: Public Relations, and a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Studies. That’s me there, in the green cap! (photo credit: Grace Helen Photography)

I’ve also moved – from rainy Eugene, Oregon, to foggy San Francisco, California. Apparently my pale skin and red hair have a vendetta against sunshine.
Finally, I’ve started a job! I’m the Sustainability Fellow at Ketchum PR in San Francisco. You can check out more in my interview with PR blog Coffee and Cardigans here.

But don’t worry. Just because I’m living the dream doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the good fight! Every week I report to my PR team the top news and trends in sustainability. I spearheaded the idea actually. It’s called “10 Things to Know by 10 a.m.” I carefully sift through papers and magazines and the web to find the most relevant stories, both for my clients and my team. All before 10 a.m. on Mondays.

I’ve decided that you too should be benefitting from these lists! So, starting next week, I’ll be posting far more regularly – once a week actually – to keep you up to date. The opinions are my own, and though I try to maintain some sense of objectivity, please feel free to spark debate. You’ll be hearing from me again very soon.

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Walking the CSR Line

20131101-093456.jpgCorporate Social Responsibility. The balance between profitability and sustainability. Few companies like to walk the CSR line, and even fewer do it well. But regardless of whether we enjoy it, CSR is a key component of public relations – especially “green PR.” This weekend I was lucky enough to attend a “Leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility” workshop at the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Conference in Philadelphia. Here were a couple of my quick takeaways from it all:

 

Align Your Message  

Having a green image or working within your community is great…if done right. Choose a cause that’s related to your company’s goals or something that a VIP at your company has close ties to. Not only will be connected to your goals help you achieve them, but also your efforts will seem more genuine. No one wants to work with the company who picks a random organization to support just to seem more “green” or “involved.” Being passionate about a cause registers with clients and consumers and puts your company in a good light.

Go Big or Go Home

Set lofty goals. Look, we all like to set goals we know we can achieve. I’m the kind of person who puts filler things on my “to-do” list just so I know I can at least check something off. But the really impressive feats are the ones we don’t know if we can actually accomplish. People notice if you’re half-assing your goals, but if your company is setting legitimate, lofty goals (even if you don’t achieve them), you gain respect from clients and consumers. When it comes to CSR, it’s better to try and fail than never to try at all.

A Company That Cares

Good CSR doesn’t happen overnight. A company can’t just wake up and suddenly to be green. It’s about setting concrete and difficult goals. It’s about actually getting involved, not just putting on a mask to seem like you are. Don’t depart too much from your company’s intent, but challenge your organization or firm to be better, profitably and sustainably.

What is good CSR? It’s about a company that cares and that people care about.

My Summer Internship

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 12.14.33 PMHaving a niche as a college student can seem a little limiting. I mean, how many nonprofits or environmental organizations are looking for PR help from a twenty-something student? But I think knowing what I want to do has its advantages. For starters, it helped me land a summer internship working for the local nonprofit FOOD for Lane County.

Companies and organizations are looking for passionate individuals. Period. Or at least that’s what my boss said when she hired me last May. Because I was so focused, I had a lot of relevant experience, which gave me a leg up. Well, that and my video skills.

I spent the summer chasing stories with a Canon EOS 7d strapped around my neck and a tripod strung over my shoulder. Is it a conventional PR job? Maybe not. But the lines between PR and advertising and marketing are all blurring together nowadays. In the end, I produced numerous videos for the organization – but there’s one that sticks out the most.

One of my tasks this summer was to create a call-to-action, or “ask,” video for our annual auction fundraiser. Here was where my niche really came into play. I want to use my PR skills, be that through traditional PR methods or design or video, to help make a difference. Well, with this video I did just that.

By understanding what the organization really did in the community and the difference it made in my area, I was able to use my skills to accurately portray the nonprofit…and pull at a few heartstrings. My video, seen here, brought in $132,400 for the FOOD for Lane County.

I think that’s what it comes down to – knowing what you want to do, or having a niche, and wanting to use every tool available to make that happen. If I had limited myself to learning the traditional PR methods, I wouldn’t have been able to get this far. So screw traditional – be a sponge. Learn everything you can and that is how you make things happen.

R.I.P. Photojournalism?

LatCameraShotely there has been a lot of talk about the death of photojournalism. But honestly, I think it’s quite the opposite.

Photojournalism is simply being reborn.

With the accessibility of camera phones and photoshop, a once nitty-gritty and highly revered profession is changing into something far more domestic. And while most of my fellow journalists detest the change, I am far more optimistic.

As an amateur photographer and videographer, I revel in the new opportunity. As a PR professional, footage has never been more attainable. And in an increasingly visual and digital world, what’s there to complain about?

So don’t whine about the death of photojournalism; rather celebrate its rebirth! For mankind loves a challenge, and with every instagram shot we are forced to rise up and improve.

The field is changing, so you can either drag your heels or join the revolution. My suggestion? Evolve…evolve and take lots of pictures.

The Power of Infographics…and Reusable Bags

WEBInfographicOur planet is in need of a little TLC. That’s common knowledge among environmental folk, but not everyone understands to what extent change is needed. Many devout environmentalists want to know how to educate and motivate the public in today’s digital age.

As PR practitioners, it is our job to sift through information. We are given a bunch of facts, and it’s our job to decide not only which are relevant but also which our audiences will respond to. Choosing the facts is only half the battle. Then we must choose how to present them. A design-oriented individual like myself? I lean towards the infographic.

Let’s be realistic – we live in a busy world. We don’t always have time to read an article, let alone retain the information. Infographics are quick, to the point and effective, not to mention visually appealing. Rather than flooding an audience with information, an infographic offers a quick and effective alternative.

As an environmentalist, I understand the urge to bombard the public with the facts. Luckily, with an infographic there simply isn’t room for thinking abstractly. The medium forces PR professionals to be concrete – ideal in a field that emphasizes “brevity.”

Not only does an infographic make us choose less information, but also it forces us to choose better information. The most successful infographics use concrete numbers and visual aids to help readers both process and remember the data.

With all this in mind, I decided to create my own infographic. As you can see, I tried to keep it as simple as possible, giving the audience a few powerful take-home points. The consistent fonts and color schemes also aid in not distracting readers, allowing them to narrow in on the facts. I hope my example helps you understand the power of infographics…and choosing reusable bags.

Voice to the Voiceless

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I’ve adored Anne Curry ever since I was a little girl watching the Today show before catching the school bus. I admire her not only for experience and professionalism, but for the compassion and humility she brings to the field. And tonight I was lucky enough to meet her.

Anne Curry, a graduate of my beloved University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications, came to give the school’s Ruhl Lecture on ethics. The speech, titled “Journalism: An Act of Faith in the Future”, was quite possibly the most inspiring speech I have ever been blessed enough to hear in person.

Contrary to popular belief, journalism is not dying out – it’s evolving. Anne (and yes, I will be calling her by her first name because I like to pretend we are pals) explained it best, saying that a “commitment to journalism isn’t crazy…it’s courageous.” Maybe I don’t want to be a journalist in the most traditional sense, but I want to spend my years spreading truth to the public and that, my friends, is journalism at it’s core.

Anne’s passion for humanitarianism and disasters, her overwhelming desire to give “voice to the voiceless”? That’s how I feel about the environment. No, I won’t be reporting from a bomb shelter in a war zone, but I want to dedicate my life to standing up for something, to making a difference. A nonprofit, a government sector, a client for an agency – however it may be, I’m going to use public relations to give a voice to the planet.

Because let’s be realistic, even mother Earth could use some good PR.

Goldilocks of Portland PR Agencies

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I am over-the-moon about studying public relations, but that’s not to say that the field isn’t intimidating. PR isn’t a nine to five job, it’s a round the clock commitment. That’s probably why, according to CareerCast, PR was ranked the fifth most stressful career path for 2013. It’s a rapidly evolving field – a field of constantly being on the top of your game.

Last week I was lucky enough to head up to Portland with a small group from UO’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and tour three different PR agencies: AM:PM PR, CMD and R/West. I loved learning about each agency, but moreover I loved learning more about myself with each agency tour.

Though I couldn’t see myself at such a small, specialized agency as AM:PM PR, a 5-man, father-daughter start up, I appreciated the long-term relationships they had with each of their clients.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, CMD is a large “full service” agency with over 180 employees and multiple locations. Though I couldn’t relate to most of their clients (digital software companies), I fell in love with the integrated agency style.

Finally there is R/West.

If I were some-sort of PR Goldilocks, this would have been the agency that was “just right.” R/West is a mid-size integrated agency large enough to have big clients and big budgets, but still small enough maintain close relationships with their clients. Their up-tempo feel and embrace of multi-media appealed to me professionally, and their industrial, modern environment appealed to me personally.

I’ll be honest, before last week I had never really pictured myself in an agency setting. But something like R/West? It might not be my niche, but it’s the kind of place I could see my future self – biking to work with my hypothetical Bernese mountain dog and taking over the Portland PR market.

Maybe I’ll end up at an agency, maybe I’ll end up in corporate communications for a nonprofit. Who knows. The field might be labeled as intimidating or “stressful” but after going to Portland I’m not scared – I’m excited!