Joe Riordan Scholar Recaps Leadership Day Session

“Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Texas Public Relations Association Leadership Day and Gala, thanks to receiving the Joe Riordan Scholarship for students.

The day consisted of many networking opportunities, keynote speakers, several breakout sessions, and an awards ceremony and gala.

One of the breakout sessions that interested me most was a “Crisis Communications Workshop for Students/Young Professionals,” hosted by Jack Barnett, APR, Southern Union Company, and Keith R. Schmidt, APR, Newfield Exploration Company.

The session began with an exploration of what crisis communication entails and some practical advice for young professionals entering the public relations field. The session concluded with a hands-on activity where the session hosts outlined a crisis situation and audience teams were challenged to propose a plan of action. Below are some of the key learning points I gained from attending the session.

What is a Crisis?
A crisis is a major, unpredictable event. It is an event or situation that poses risk to a company’s or organization’s reputation.

So, if it’s just one event, why does it matter? Well, because one event can make a lasting impression on your overall reputation. Think back to the Exxon Valdez incident, many people still equate Exxon with oil spill.

How to Handle a Crisis in a Business or Organization:
The best way to handle a crisis in a business or organization is communication, of course. Ideally businesses and organizations will have a crisis plan outlined before a crisis even occurs. For every crisis there is planning that occurs before, moderation of the event during, and a debriefing and adjusting period afterwards.

Before the Crisis – Create a Plan
Every business or organization should have a crisis communication plan – universities, government organizations, and even non-profits. This plan should consist of several key features including: identifying potential or likely crisis’ that may occur (the “what ifs” – these may be obvious based on your industry); choose a company spokesperson, identify who will be the face of the company for both the media and the internal staff; create a list of tasks to be initiated by the public relations team; outline and develop talking points that can be adjusted as the situation changes. Finally, it is important to practice the plan, if not physically, then at least do a mental run-through.

The Organization’s Role during the Crisis
• Tell the truth: reporters and community members WILL find out that you lied and things will get worse
• Show empathy: especially if employees were injured during the crisis, you must show empathy and respect for the families and concerned community members
• Demonstrate leadership: be available to answer questions, but set your ground rules
• Maintain internal communication: communication among employees and staff does not always flow easily, especially when high stress situations occur; the organization must maintain clear communication using available channels to keep employees and staff “on the same page”
Working with the Media – Do’s and Don’ts
Remember that reporters can be crucial in the way your organization’s reputation is affected by the crisis. They are an excellent source to work with in handling the issues. As long as you’re upfront, they will work with you. The reporters will likely become upset if you’re not communicating openly.
• Do keep talking points in your pocket to avoid speaking on the spot
• Do talk “through” the reporters; your company should emerge as the expert in the matter
• Do know the company’s record – have similar events happened before?
• Do tell the truth – no matter what
• Do NOT speculate on any facts; remember, nothing is off the record
• Do NOT ignore the situation; this will only make things worse
The Public Relations Team Must Pay Special Attention to:
The holding statement: who will speak to the press? Do you need approval to release statements?
The facts: confirm the who, what, where, when, why throughout the event, updating as necessary
Is travel to the site necessary, and who does it?

Resolve the Crisis
Verify all the information: just how bad are the effects?
Continue to communicate and develop answers
Consider creating a “joint information center,” – for employees, concerned citizens, and journalists
Finally: update, communicate, repeat

After discussing the components of a crisis communication plan, Barnett and Schmidt put us to the test. They split the audience into two groups, each representing a company that had just experienced a crisis. Each team had about 17 minutes to review the impact and effects of the crisis, choose a company spokesperson, develop a list of things that must be done from a PR standpoint, develop talking points, and adjust the talking points as the situation changed.

About 5 minutes into the exercise, we were informed that our company president (me) just had a heart attack. Now that our spokesperson was out of the picture, we had to choose a new spokesperson, update her on the talking points, and develop a way to inform the media about why our company president would not be available at the press conference.

A few minutes later, we were informed that two employees had died during the crisis. As a PR team, we had to decide how to announce the deaths of the employees, whether or not to state their names, to tell their families, etc..When our spokesperson stood up to deliver the company’s statement, audience members acted as journalists, asking questions and seeking facts.

This hands-on experience gave me a real look into what it might be like to face a crisis in a company or organization, what an exciting workshop! I really learned a lot and am thankful to Schmidt and Barnett for the fun crisis communication challenge. Click here to read the full scenario, I think it could be a great exercise for a communication course or any public relations/corporate communication workshop.

A little bit more on the workshop hosts:
Jack Barnett, APR, is director of external affairs for Southern Union Company, a diversified natural gas company. He has 20 years of experience in media relations and communications for the energy industry and previously has worked as a reporter at newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas.

Keith Schmidt, APR, currently is senior communications coordinator at Newfield Exploration Company in Houston. In this position, he implemented a new employee communications program, works with the media and formalized crisis communications training at the company. He also developed a community outreach program for company expansion of operations in the Mid-Continent.”

Ally Hugg
SEUPRSSA President 09-10
St. Edward’s University

How to Use YouTube as a Marketing Tool

Marketing on YouTube is similar to marketing on more traditional mediums. There are many different audiences with different tastes. However there are a lot of younger people on YouTube and what appeals to them won’t necessarily appeal to the same age group on more traditional media. Over-the-top, random humor and non sequiturs are what sells not only on YouTube, but all over the Internet.

Take for example a t-shirt on that went from being just a random t-shirt to the No. 1 selling item for months. All it took was an over the top product review that promised mystical powers and the ability for the wearer to get any woman that he so desired.

As you can see, the product itself is just some lame shirt of three wolves howling at the moon. But when combined with a hilarious product review, the shirt became an internet meme and a lot of people bought it because they thought it was funny.

Although this example was text-based and didn’t occur on YouTube, the fact that it happened on the internet and used outlandish humor is enough to warrant a serious consideration for its effectiveness as a marketing strategy. In my opinion, a very good video-based example of how to market on YouTube would be the new Old Spice commercials that show men doing impossibly manly things (such as eating a golf club after hitting a golf ball one-handed). The only thing that I would change about the video is lower its production value.

People on YouTube don’t like corporate videos with high production value. For a video to go viral on YouTube, it really needs to look like some kid got bored and recorded some candid footage. And remember, always keep in mind that the most viewed videos on YouTube are comedy, not serious. So always try and be funny.

Fun Things To Do In Austin

With all the fun and excitement just about thirty minutes away, there is no question that Texas State University students don’t make frequent trips to what is called the live music capital of the world. The infamous Austin, Texas is an attraction to not only young people alike, but the simple fact that it tends to attract people of all ages, no matter who you are, or where you come from. There is an endless amount of places to see, people to meet, and music to hear.

If you’re a music buff, then there are plenty of live bands and shows playing on a daily basis. According to Austin, a few top places to visit include: Stubb’s Bar B-Q, Antone’s, Emo’s, Continental Club, Cactus Cafe, and the Bass Concert Hall. If you’re looking to soak up the night life, there is always the famous sixth street, a place with an endless line of different bars, where tons of people are seen walking around having a good time.

Austin is also home to the beautiful Lake Travis, a place where people can drive their boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes, or visit some of the nearby restaurants right on the water. Some restaurants include the Hula Hut, Carlos & Charles, or the Oasis. You can watch the sunset, enjoy the scenery of the multi-million dollar homes, and marvel at the beautiful landscape Austin has to offer. Other outdoor activities are Zilker Park, or Town Lake, where people like to run, hike, or ride their bike. Don’t forget to head over to Barton Springs Creek, a great place to work on your tan after having a little dip in the pool. This popular destination is a natural man-made spring where the locals can jump in crystal-clear water, relax, and enjoy the sun. Don’t forget about the Congress Street Bridge at dusk, where you will find the bats take flight every evening!

If you’re interested in learning more about the cultural side of Austin, there are plenty of places to visit to get a sense of the history, and awe of how Austin came to be such a unique, and special place. You can take a tour of the Austin Capital Building, the Bob Bullock Museum for some Texas History, or even tour the University of Texas. Austin also has it’s own zoo, and if you feel like having lunch before heading there, have a picnic in Zilker park, after you smell the roses at Zilker Botanical Gardens. There are beautiful golf courses, if you find yourself wanting a relaxing day with scenic beauty in the Austin hills. Some include River Place, Avery Ranch, or Lakeway’s Yaupon just to name a few.

Austin is full of culture, charm, and a never-ending list of exciting and fun places to see leaving everyone wanting to come back to visit!

Staying at the Hyatt

During the Texas PR Leadership Day and Gala, the hotel is the place to
be, whether it’s to connect with peers outside the meeting room or
enjoy sleeping in the morning after the gala.  Book your room at Hyatt
Regency Hotel by February 19, and receive a discounted rate. To
reserve a room today, call 800-223-1234 and mention our group ID,
TPRA. For more information on reserving a room, visit our site and click on the Online Registration link. Then all that is
left to do is get to packin’, for one day packed full of learning,
networking and fun.

Only One Week Away.

Act Fast! The 2010 TRPA Leadership Day and Gala early registration date is quickly approaching. The last day for early registration is Friday, February 19. Don’t miss on the opportunity to save some
extra cash. The following are the Early Bird registration prices:

Full Registration (includes Friday Leadership sessions, luncheon and awards gala — and the Thursday Communicators Connexion)

TPRA Member: $225
Non Member: $300

Friday Only (includes luncheon)
TPRA Member: $135
Non Member: $150

Friday Luncheon Only
TPRA Member: $65
Non Member: $100

Annual Conference Transformed Into Leadership Day: One Week Left for Early Bird Registration

Howdy to all my TPRA friends! I hope to see all of you at this year’s TPRA Leadership Day and Gala in Austin, Texas on March 4-5 at the Hyatt Regency. You may be asking, “What is the Leadership Day?” Well, it’s really our annual conference. To keep up with the changing times, and to ensure the financial health of the organization, we’ve streamlined the conference to primarily one day. With this new format, on Friday, March 5, we have a really jam-packed day filled with educational sessions and keynotes from some of Texas’ leading public relations gurus from Dell, GSD&M Idea City, Tuerff-Davis Enviromedia, BizComm Associates, Whole Foods, SXSW, TateAustinHahn and so much more. In addition, on Thursday, March 4, we’ve got a jumpstart to the Leadership Day with an accreditation workshop and a “Communicators Connexion” (a happy hour), featuring Dan Bartlett, CEO and President of Public Strategies in Austin.
Just like our annual conference, the Leadership Day will feature our annual Silver Spur/Best of Texas awards ceremony – we’ve just started calling it a gala (because it’s so cool that we recognize the best in PR and outstanding individuals). And, just like our annual conference, we are there to network, have fun, meet old friends and create new ones.
I hope you can join us. To get the best price you need to register by the early bird deadline of Feb. 19 (that’s just one week away!) The best value of course is to register for the entire Leadership Day and Gala (which also gets you in free to the “Communicators Connexion).
I’d also like to thanks Enbridge Inc. who has graciously stepped up to be the Leadership Day and Gala presenting sponsor. In these tough economic times, we appreciate an organization that understands the value of public relations and is willing to financial underwrite a great event. Plus, they value their own communications team and that is even better.
In addition, I’d like to do a shout out to our college students. Since last September, students from Texas State University have been helping shape our Leadership Day. Today, students from their PRSSA chapter are writing blogs, developing e-mails and leveraging social media to get the word out. I’m also pleased that students from the University of North Texas are going to start helping us as well.
The Leadership Day and Gala will be a powerful opportunity to learn about the “Best in Texas” in public relations. Sign up today!

How to Pitch on Twitter.

Pitching on Twitter is becoming more of a commonplace every day. For some reporters, it’s much more convenient for them to be pitched on the web than it is to answer phone calls and emails. Also, much like with the more traditional methods of reaching a reporter, you will be more successful if you have already formed some sort of relationship with them.

Nobody likes to read lots of text, so be concise. Why write two sentences when you can pitch your story in one? Remember that reporters are pitched many times a day, so they appreciate it when it’s short and to the point.

So you’ve formed a relationship with the reporter and sent them a nice, concise pitch and you still don’t have a response? Be patient! People often give up if they don’t get a result quickly, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes journalists are too bogged down by all of the pitches that they receive and simply cannot get to your story idea.

Also, if your pitch doesn’t quite fit what they are looking for at the moment, it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t run a story on it later; it just might not fit what they are looking for at the moment. There is also the other possibly that since they probably are communicating with a lot of other people, they could have accidently overlooked your tweet.

One last thing that you should make sure of is that you are pitching the correct reporter. Every journalist hates bad, long-winded pitches that don’t apply to their audience. Make sure that your pitch has an angle that would appeal to the particular journalist that you are pitching.


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