Tuesday, January 2, 2018

To be or not to be in PR

Whenever I tell anyone that I am in school for public relations they don’t know what it is, once I begin to explain to them further what it is and some of the tasks that are involved they always follow up with but what can you do with that? This is a funny question I have been asked multiple times since September when I started my post graduate degree. The answer to the question – at least the one I give does not satisfy anyone’s question further, simply because I say the possibilities are endless.

I was exposed to public relations in my time in University, our professor was a former PR pro that would share his many stories about what it was like to work in the industry. Granted his job was more glamorous since he did work for Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs, so his stories were more exciting than the average PR story. It was clear from the start that not one day is the same, it’s not like your typical 9 to 5 job where you input data all day and look forward to lunch to catch a break from the mundane task. 

If you are the type of person that gets bored easily, this is the job for you since it won’t have you doing the same tasks day to day. One day you can be working with marketing over branding strategies, the next day working with your team to plan a fundraiser, developing employee newsletters or even working on a crisis when a disgruntled employee tweeted out in anger for the company. Even job titles can vary from relations specialist, PR specialist, communications specialist, media relations, etc.

Not only are the tasks that you do diverse but the industry in which you work for can be anything! PR is all about managing an image and building a relationship with the public, this means that every company uses/needs some form of PR. Jobs can be found in all 3 major sectors, from not-for-profit, business and government. This is where you get to align the profession with your passion, interests or major; this allows you to really build upon the skills you acquired in university and work within an area that you feel passionate about.

I think this is what is confusing for some people to grasp when you explain to them you are in public relations, the fact that your options are limitless and they want a clear defined in the box answer. This is why PR is one of the best jobs out there today, it’s a growing industry that is never solid, always fluid, changing and adapting to the times. What you do today is not what you will be doing a year from now.

I can tell you right now, I have no idea what to do yet career wise with where I want to start, which industry or company. But I know that PR was the right choice since it will allow me the flexibility to do many different things in the span of my hopefully long career in public relations. I can’t wait to graduate and hit the ground running looking for unique opportunities that come my way.  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Working with Ronald McDonald House

For the client project this term, my group and I were assigned Ronald McDonald House Charities South Central Ontario. Our group had a different experience, because unlike most of the other groups, Ronald McDonald House is a very well-established charity, and already has dedicated donors and communications. The first assignment that we had was to conduct a communications audit, during which we would see what kinds of communications they use, and to maybe suggest different types of communications. We met with Jill, the communications manager at the house, in order to discuss the various communication methods they use at the charity. The meeting went very well, but Jill basically told us that they did not really have any need for us, and that she was mostly working with Mohawk for our benefit. The charity already knew how to communicate to its donors and internal staff, and it did not really need us to do a communications audit. When we conducted the communications audit, we discovered that the internal staff was happy with the communications they were receiving, and that there was really no need for a change. The client was not using Instagram very much, but that was something they were working on improving.
For the next part of the client assignment, we had to come up with a fundraiser and execute it. Being a very established charity, Ronald McDonald House did not really need any help with fundraising. However, Jill did tell us that they would like to raise awareness of the charity, and what they do. Many people think that Ronald McDonald House is owned and operated by McDonald’s restaurant, and question why Ronald McDonald House needs donations. In reality, Ronald McDonald is independently owned and operated, and while they do get funding from McDonalds, it adds up to only about 20% of their annual budget. McDonalds founded the first Ronald McDonald House in Canada in 1981, but they do not run any of the charity work, or own the houses.  McDonalds also helps Ronald McDonald House with fundraising, such as McHappy Day, when proceeds from Happy Meals go to Ronald McDonald Houses in the area.
For the fundraiser, we started with lots of interesting ideas, including holding a game night at a local board game cafĂ©, and hosting a movie night at a local school. When Mohawk College went on strike, we were not able to carry out our fundraiser, and when school finally started again, there was so much to do, we decided to change our plan. Instead of doing something big, we used Ronald McDonald House’s fundraising platform “Make Fun Matter” to make a fundraising page, and posted about it on all of our social media accounts. Our goal was to raise $159, which is the cost of hosting one family for one night at Ronald McDonald House, and we raised $459. We were very pleased with the amount that we managed to raise, but we were also happy that so many people saw our message, and obviously responded to it. Awareness was what the client wanted, and hopefully we helped to provide it.

I think that while we learned a lot from our experience, it was very different from what other groups experienced. Our client was very well established and well-known charity. They hold galas and charity golf tournaments every year, thanking donors who gave generously throughout the year. Everyone knows the name Ronald McDonald House, even if they do not fully understand how it works. Despite the fact that our help was not really needed by the charity, it was still a great learning experience, and we were pleased that we managed to raise money for a charity that the whole group thinks is very important. 

(Ronald McDonald House Charities South Central Ontario)

Working with Meltwater

During my first term in the Public Relations program at Mohawk College, we were introduced to the Meltwater platform. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Meltwater, it is a site that acts as a media content analysis tool. Founded in 2001 in Oslo, Norway by Jorn Lyseggen, it became one of the first online media monitoring tools of its kind. My classmates and I were fortunate enough to have a representative from Meltwater conduct a demo for us at Mohawk College.

Meltwater is used to collect and aggregate media and present it in a concise, organized manner to the user. For example, during our classroom demo, we tracked news stories and social media posts regarding a recent police situation at a local high school. With a few clicks, we had collected all print and online media stories relating to the police situation. Furthermore, we gathered any social media postings (specifically on Twitter) that related to the incident.

I enjoyed the demo, and found Meltwater to be a useful tool for a number of reasons. First (and perhaps most obvious), it was able to gather any and all media regarding the news story we had chosen. This capability saves a lot of digital legwork and makes media content analysis infinitely more efficient. I also liked how Meltwater allows the user to present this data in a number of ways - in scatter plots, pie charts, etc. Meltwater's media content analysis even went so far as to organize mentions of the news story by tone. That is, it organized each media posting by if there was a positive, negative or neutral tone to the story.

Meltwater proved to be extremely intuitive, and the representative from Meltwater made sure he answered any questions we as a class had. I especially appreciated the demo, since I believe it is a useful skill to add to my resume when I begin my job search in the coming months. I decided to enroll in this program so that I would gain concrete skills that would translate well to a workplace. I believe experience working with media content analysis tools such as Meltwater will aid me in my future in the public relations field.
Ethics provide a positive framework as to how individuals should participate in societies in order to provide a fair and considerate environment. They are moral principles that help shape and define behaviours through providing a foundation of thoughts and attitudes. It is common for various institutions to provide their ethical guidelines such as workplaces, schools and professional associations. An example of this would be the International Association of Business Communicators' Code of Ethics:

  • I am honest—my actions bring respect for and trust in the communication profession.
  • I communicate accurate information and promptly correct any errors.
  • I obey laws and public policies; if I violate any law or public policy, I act promptly to correct the situation.
  • I protect confidential information while acting within the law.
  • I support the ideals of free speech, freedom of assembly, and access to an open marketplace of ideas.
  • I am sensitive to others’ cultural values and beliefs.
  • I give credit to others for their work and cite my sources
  • I do not use confidential information for personal benefit.
  • I do not represent conflicting or competing interests without full disclosure and the written consent of those involved.
  • I do not accept undisclosed gifts or payments for professional services from anyone other than a client or employer.
  • I do not guarantee results that are beyond my power to deliver.

  • I believe the IABC's Code of Ethics illustrates general positive standards that are relevant to other aspects of an individual's livelihood. The values embedded in the code include honestly, credibility and integrity. These are all qualities that can be attributed to other parts of life. If an individual follows this guide and applies it to their day-to-day life, it would be a positive contribution to not only their life, but society as a whole. It holds everyone accountable for their actions which promotes a society full or reliable members. Furthermore, the code offers simplistic ways in which individuals can apply these guidelines to their lives. Being honest, sensitive to others and obeying laws are easy to follow and would not obstruct the way more individuals shape their lives but help promote a better society. 

    How the Public Relations Program @ Mohawk has benefited me.

    After graduating from the Marketing program at Mohawk College in 2017, I knew I wanted to study further into the field. Marketing is a topic I love to discuss and all the factors behind it intrigue me. What stood out the most to me was communicating with the public. I've grown up using social media starting with MSN and moving my way into Facebook as well as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. In the Marketing program we discussed using the platforms as a way to engage with our audience but one topic stood out to me in particular, Public Relations. This is when I knew I wanted to study this field. After doing some research, I knew Mohawk had a great program focusing on PR and I have not been disappointed. Public Relations at Mohawk has been an incredible experience so far. There is a lot of hands on work involving programs such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and InDesign. These programs are challenging at first but the professors have been nothing short of excellent in helping you succeed in your assignments. After having several classes focused on these programs, I feel I can make and edit videos, prepare infographics, and even design brochures for a firm. The PR program has taught me these skills only in the first semester. I can't wait to see what the second semester holds and all the skills I'll learn by the time I'm finished. Public Relations at Mohawk College has been an excellent experience so far and I'm excited to see what the rest of the program looks like as well as my co-op placement.

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMrtvvh_eLk (This is a video I made for our Premiere Pro assignment. Prior to this year, I had no knowledge of how to edit a video and the Public Relations program has taught me how.)

    The Benefits of Blogging

    Blogging as a form of PR is becoming increasingly popular. That being said, having a space to blog on does not have to be just for the personal, it is beneficial to organizations as well. Companies can reach their audience on a whole new platform by providing updated content and allowing communications to be a two-way street. Here are some tips, benefits, and things to remember about blogging when it comes to either a personal or professional one:  

    • Do not assume your audience knows every detail of what you are posting about
    • Just because it is an typically an informal setting, that does not mean grammar and spelling should be ignored
    • If you can, try and narrow down and know your target audience
      • Who would be interested in your message?
    • Use other sites to promote your blog
    • Try not to make post too long
      • People may not want to read it otherwise
    • Make your site mobile friendly
    • Welcome comments
    • Set up a schedule/calendar of when to post so you do not fall behind
    • Include external sources to strengthen your post
      • I.e. images, GIFS, videos, links, etc.

    • Blogging is a direct and more personal link to your audience
      • Gives the appearance to you or your organization as more approachable  
    • Blogging serves as an added communications channel to control your message
    • Posts can help shape the brand of your business or yourself
      • Your site can be tailored and stylized to how you see fit
    • Welcoming comments shows that your organization is encouraging conversation rather than just spreading information

    Things to Remember:
    • Because of the informal nature of a blog, it can be a challenge for some individuals or businesses to keep up with – having a mentality that it is okay to put of posts
      • Posts can be timely in writing if you fall behind which is why you should update frequently
    • Your audience expects frequent updates
      • If you are failing to do so, you may lose readers
    •  Blogs require attention and maintenance. It is not something you can neglect to look at
    • If you are new you are starting with a blank canvas. A following may be slow at first but it will grow if you put the right time and effort into it 
    Check out this article for further benefits of blogging for business: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/the-benefits-of-business-blogging-ht 

    My Experience at College and University

    Deciding what to do after high school is a tough decision teenagers are faced with. They must determine if they want to pursue post-secondary education or not, and if so, college or university? 

    Personally, I chose to pursue an undergraduate degree at a university outside the province. Since I didn’t know what I wanted my career to be, I opted for a broad major that would allow me to keep my options open. Concordia University in Montreal was a great experience and one that I will never forget. I made friends for life and grew a lot as a person due to living far away from my parents.

    As I progressed in my degree, I started to realize I wanted a career in the communications field. Looking into what was needed in order to obtain this dream, I realized that the knowledge I gained throughout my undergrad was mainly theory-based, and my skills soft. (Soft skills are personal attributes versus hard skills are tangible and teachable).  My courses consisted of lectures with weekly readings and exams. I learned theories of management, motivation, and why people behave the way they do. But I never received the hands on experience to put this knowledge into practice. I lacked the hard skills and experience necessary to reach my career goals.

    I decided that college would be a great addition to my university education. Choosing the postgraduate certificate in Public Relations at Mohawk College, I was excited to experience the different learning environment of college.

    Now finishing my first semester, I can say that the learning environments of college and university are very different. I find the courses in college tailored towards a very particular career, at least in public relations. Every course I am enrolled in provides me with crucial knowledge and experience for my chosen field. There is a writing class each semester to teach the students the proper structure for different communication material. We learn about the different ways to reach your target audience, and when to use each method. Is it best to use a traditional news outlet, such as newspaper or news station, or is your audience more active on social media? Course work is mainly assignments and projects, compared to the readings and exams associated with university. This allows students to gain experience writing about the information and putting it into practice. Projects and assignments also allow students to start building their portfolio, which is necessary in this field. I am looking forward to applying my newly acquired hard skills through the required internship, which I will be starting in the winter semester.

    I cherish my experience at university and I have been thoroughly enjoying my time at college. University provided me with theoretical knowledge that I was able to apply to my college education at Mohawk, which I feel is better preparing me for the workforce.

    I have attached a few of my college assignments that I have been able to add to my portfolio.