GUEST SPEAKERS

April 7th, 2011: Tanya Houseman, SF Travel Association (**blog based on recording from lecture obtained by another in our class**)

           Tanya Houseman, like many of our other PR speakers throughout the semester, stressed the importance of working in PR through the lens of a journalist.  Tanya works for the SF Travel Association, and with her job, she says that when trying to attract journalists, she needs to think like them.  You need to give them something new and unusual to write about. It is important to keep in mind that every journalist is looking for an angle, a story that will entice them and make them want to write a story.

When discussing her particular job, she did a great deal of explaining what her association looks to promote for potential travelers.  Tanya specified 6 areas of interest for her association that include (1) green travel, (2) cultural events, (3) gay travel, (4) neighborhoods, (5) iconic stuff), and (6) arts & crafts.  All of these areas of interests are great story-catchers for journalists.  If her association is able to introduce journalists coming to San Francisco to these types of events, they will surely be on the good side of those journalists.  Her business is the best to get into if you live around the Bay Area because in San Francisco, tourism is the #1 industry.  If you are interested in a PR job, working in tourism is a great way to build experience, while making a lucrative career.

            Another aspect of Tanya’s speech that was particularly interesting was her discussion of the media tools and outlets she uses in her job.  Like many other businesses, Tanya uses both Facebook and Twitter to connect with both the public and clients interested in using her job skills.  Tanya describes social networking, like Facebook and Twitter, as “the new thing.”  She explained that it is best way to update everyone with new and upcoming events.  In her job, Tanya discussed her goals and current endeavors.  What she is trying to do is drive industry money to San Francisco.  By creating more industry revenue, the hope is that more jobs will be created in San Francisco.  The more buzz and industry being created in a tourist city like SF, the more work her association will get.  Her particular job was an extremely interesting one to learn about because it is one that we are all exposed to everyday.  Living in and around San Francisco, I think most people take our city for granted.  What Tanya did was reintroduce us and made us more perceptive about how wonderful San Francisco really is.

            Now, in her discussion of working in Public Relations more generally, some of the things she said were very interesting.  For instance, she explained that Pr personnel should not blast people with news releases.  I found this particularly interesting because I feel that in our class, we have been very focused on writing outlets like news release.  Now, while she said that they are necessary, Tanya did stress moderation and conciseness.  She highlighted the importance of keeping news releases short and to the point.  This again goes back to thinking like a journalist because, as we have learned, journalists are looking for the quick story, so it’s impotent to catch their attention early.  Tanya also explained that, in PR, when someone asks you to do something and you want to gain confidence, (1) ask questions and (2) come up with a solution.  On top of everything else she said about Pr, Tanya topped it off with saying that if you are looking for a future in Pr; it would be a good idea to take a journalist ethics class to become better-rounded.

            I personally enjoyed the few tips that she gave to the class that will surely help all of us in the future.  It’s good to remember to be confident and ask questions.  It is also important to remember that you reputation is GOLD! People always have a way to look you up, so it’s important to be professional. While all of these tips are simple, they are sometimes overlooked. You should always keep them in mind!

March 17th, 2011: Erin Hallissy, worker in Public Affairs Department for Shell Oil-Martinez

     Erin Hallissy works in the Public Affairs Department for Shell Oil, specifically in the Martinez Refinery.  Before working for Shell Oil, Erin worked at Saint Mary’s College and as a journalist for 25 years.  Like the previous guest speakers who have visited our class, Erin made the jump from working as a journalist to working in public relations.  Erin expressed that it is normal to switch between journalism and public relations because the two occupations are often connected in what they are trying to promote or sell.

            When asked about her journalism career and her relationship with public relation firms, Erin stressed the importance of a good working relationship between journalists and public relations personnel.   Erin explained that the goal of PR practitioner is to make the journalist job easier.  She gave an example of writing a press release.  Erin said it was important to make your point, be clear and plainly spoken (don’t use fancy wording), and choose words carefully.  These are just a few ways to help keep a good relationship between journalists and PR workers. 

            When asked why she decided to work in PR for Shell Oil, Erin explained that the Shell Public Affair Manager wanted to tell the truth.  Being a former journalist, Erin valued this goal.  Dennis Erokan explained early in class that it is key to tell the truth in order to have a good relationship between PR workers and journalists.  Erin believes that honesty is the best policy.  She talked about how cover-ups are worse than the crime.  Mistakes happen, and if a company fesses up to their mistakes, it is much more accepted than blaming others.  It is always better to be honest because a lie is often worse than the situation the lie comes from.  Based on this belief system, Erin stated that she wanted to fulfill this goal by not trying to put a spin on what is going on with Shell Oil.  Whether a positive or negative situation, Erin discussed that her goal in working for Shell Oil is to state the facts.  Letting people be the ultimate decider on situation is the best.

            When specifically asked about her role at Shell Oil, Erin seemed mostly dedicated and concerned to helping and servicing the residents of Martinez.  Erin explained that Shell uses $500,000 a year to use to help the community.  It is important to have a good and lasting relationship with the city shared with the refinery.  Shell gives 2 days a year to their employees to conduct community service projects as part of their giving back to the community.  These projects include wheels for meals, reading time at elementary schools, and environmental cleanup.  Employees are fully supportive of the community service work that their company allows for them to do.  They understand that is a privilege to be in a neighborhood that is so supportive of the work done at the Shell Martinez refinery, and it was important to give back.

            On the media side of her job, Erin discussed the importance of media technologies to get the word out about what a company is doing.  Erin explained that they recently created a website, and that the Martinez refinery is a pilot for future Shell websites.  In addition to the website, Shell Martinez also has a facebook page and a twitter account that supporters could follow what’s happening in and around the Martinez refinery. 

            Finally, Erin was asked to give some advice.  She explained that being a former journalist, she has the unique perspective of creating and bring stories to a company that may not have thought of themselves as newsworthy.  She also shared that being a resident of Martinez also gives the PR Shell group insight on how good they are doing at marketing to Martinez residents.  Erin’s final words of wisdom centered around her belief in the importance of creating and maintaining relationships.  She says to get to know people, create relationships because that will help you in the future.  By reaching out and making the effort, human connection is the key to any workings in communications.

 

March 3rd, 2011: Molly Blaisdell, Owner of Hook, Line & Thinker

            What I found most enjoyable about Molly’s visit was how passionate she was about public relations.  In our readings and class discussions, we have talked about the rules and practices of public relations as well as the benefits and challenges involved in pursuing a career in PR. We have talked about PR in technical terms, but I feel that we have yet to discuss the personal reasons for working in PR.  Molly reminded me that working in PR is just a job, and that the key to success is loving what you do!

          Public relations is simply the practice of relating to publics.  Molly emphasized that the most important part of PR is creating and maintaining relationships.  She talked about how PR is interactive.  There has to be a relationship between her and a client in order for her work to be successful.  Working in PR today, as Molly said, is difficult because with technological advancements like e-mail, blogs, and facebook, there are so many easier ways to get a hold of clients, journalists, and fellow PR competitors.  While these technologies can be beneficial, Molly also talked about the difficulties of keeping networking up and relationships strong.  In order to keep people interested in being a part of an event or testing a new product, Molly has to be creative in getting journalists to come to her events and in promoting her client or product.  I especially like her example of having a party during the Blue Angels air show in San Francisco.  By allowing her journalists friends to watch the festivities from the balcony of the Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco, she was able to host a fun event, while promoting her hotel clients.

            The key to surviving and thrive in PR is being unique and creative.  Molly first gave a list of the top qualities that one needs to have if they hope to work in PR.  They included having integrity, tell the truth.  Like our previous guest speaker, Dennis Erokan, Molly stressed the importance of telling the truth.  Having a good reputation is critical in working in PR, and if a PR practitioner is caught in a lie, their reputation will be tarnished forever, making it extremely difficult to continue working without a cloud of doubt over their head.  Another quality was being persistent.  Don’t ever settle for ok, always strive for the best and the most successful PR practitioners will constantly be looking for the next big break in promoting their client.  Other qualities were having a good disposition and be responsiveness.  Like stated previously, PR relies on creating and uphold great relationships, and in Molly’s experience, being a happy and engaging person has made her very popular in the PR field. Despite all these qualities necessary to succeed in PR, I think the most important thing to remember is to be original and yourself.  Molly talked about thinking outside the box.  It is important to not only come up with a creative campaign and sell it well, but it’s just as important to know what your competitors.  Make note of campaign strategies that were successful with other competitors, and spin it in order to be unique to your own campaign.  On the other hand, also make note of what has not worked for other competitors and make sure to avoid it.  Molly stressed that it is critical to know what your competitors are doing well and to try a supersede that.  Be original, stand out, and follow your heart- that is what I have learned most from Molly.

            What Molly has taught me is that anyone can work in PR as long as they have the passion to do so.  It is possible to be successful even without working in a huge PR firm, but it takes a smart person to make it happen.  Surrounding yourself with trustworthy and dedicated colleagues, willing to help with your campaigns, is the best way to keep your PR firm flowing and exciting.  Molly proves that you can find success on your own.  She was a fantastic guest speaker and anyone who has the chance to meet with her should because she is a great example of an individual who loves PR.

February 17th, 2011: Dennis Erokan, CEO of Placemaking Group

                I was very excited to meet and learn more about Public Relations from Dennis Erokan, CEO of Placemaking Group.  Often under the impression that public relations practitioners are stressed and a bit tough, it was refreshing to see how nice and energetic Dennis was.  He came into our class filled with enthusiasm and flashing a smile, which made me feel comfortable and excited to listen to what he had to say.

                What I liked about Dennis’s lecture was how he introduced the two main rules to remember when working in Public Relations: make the journalist’s job easier and don’t lie.  Both seem very simple, but are extremely important in order to be successful.  Dennis discussed the close relationship between PR professionals and the media.  Dennis stressed that the job of journalists or any media source is to get a story.  What he stressed even more is that it is the job of a PR firm to be the ones to organize what will be said.  Therefore, both groups need one another.  It is the job of the PR firm to answer questions and relay information to the media in order to get the story out there.  The easier the flow of communication is between the journalists and those working in PR, the better the relationship.  As Dennis emphasized, if the relationship between the PR workers and the journalist remains strong, the relationship will last.  It is always better to have the media as an ally when conducting PR for any type of client.

                The second rule to Public Relations, don’t lie, is just as important as the first.  If you lie in PR, your reputation is ruined forever.  When it comes to relaying information, Dennis discussed that PR firms might “spin” the truth in dealing with different campaigns, but cannot afford to lie.  Once a PR is caught in a lie, no one will want to work with them again.  For the potential clients, any PR put out about them will always be under constant scrutiny, and for the journalists, they will no longer be able to trust what they are being told.  Instead of trying to decide what is true and what is false, journalists will just never work with that public relations firm again.  Therefore, with so much to lose, it is key to remember never to lie because nothing good will ever come out of that.

                I think the most important thing I learned about public relations from Dennis Erokan is that preparedness and organization is a must if one hopes to work in public relations.  By having a plan for every potential situation and making sure everyone involved understands how they need to act in any situation, PR firms will thrive.  In his discussion of crisis management, Dennis stressed the importance of having a plan.  He kept referencing his colleague Irv, and explaining that by demanding a setup for a crisis situation, like the Guam plane crash, Placemaking Group was able to relay information as smoothly as possible.  By being prepared, Dennis’s PR firm has been able to handle situations well and has gained a reputation for their organization skills and preparedness.  This has made his firm more popular and allowed for the growth of clients.

                I believe that the key to public relations is gaining momentum.  By working hard and surrounding yourself with workers who display strong PR skills (Dennis named a few that included having creativity, being communicative and implementation), then success will come.  Every victory will make a PR firm more noticeable and bring a great deal of new clients.  Building up a good reputation in PR takes time, but each accomplishment skyrockets your credibility and your potential.  So, it is important to work hard and gain a good reputation because this will allow anyone hoping for a career in public relations a better chance of scoring a great job!

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