Archive for ‘The PR Industry’

January 4, 2014

What is PR? It’s like a broccoli tree forest

Image: I hate broccoli (Getty/Rosemarie Gearhart)

Photo: Rosemarie Gearhart/Getty Images

Remember all those nights as a kid when you pushed broccoli around your dinner plate because you didn’t want to eat it? Maybe PR could have helped you swallow it down.

What is PR?

PR – Public Relations. That’s the name of the game I’ve been in, professionally, for almost three years now. Time flies when you’re … making broccoli tree forests. More to come on that topic in a moment.

Here’s the definition from Public Relations Society of America: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

(Fun fact: I once had this definition memorized for a final exam in a college PR class.)

That definition is broad and vague, right? Right. OK. Let’s break it down.

No blame to PRSA; they have a tough task at hand to pinpoint our industry’s work. This is because the foundation of PR is communication. And what, in life, doesn’t require communication? Nothing. It’s e-v-e-r-y-where.

That shareholder letter you read from a CEO last quarter – a PR pro wrote it. The website about a new gadget you want to buy – PR pro. Story on the cereal box – PR. Article in the local newspaper – may have started on a PR pro’s desk. Reason you’re voting for that ballot measure – yep, PR. This blog post – you get the point.

Photo from dreamstime

Photo: dreamstime

PR is a broccoli tree forest
Some say PR is “spin,” and then it gets a bad rap. Well, I’m here to tell you that spinning can actually bring out some good. Like on the dancefloor. And in blenders. Or when your mom encouraged you to eat broccoli by making it look like a tree forest.

That last example most closely exemplifies PR “spin.” Forgive me for simplifying, but play with this imaginary case study:

  • The PR pro: Mom
  • The organization she represents: HealthyFamiliesRUs
  • One of the organization’s publics: Child
  • Goal of HealthyFamilesRUs: Increase children’s daily intake of vegetables
  • PR pro’s tactic: Make broccoli fun

Mom, being the PR pro shes is, knows the target audience (her child) well. So she creates a message, probably both spoken and visually, that is tailored to her audience’s interest and knowledge. The child, in turn, has fun while consuming more nutrients.

Mom developed something that was mutually beneficial to both her organization and its public.

Of course, for this logic to be logical, we have to all agree that eating miniature green trees is beneficial. There will be some who dislike broccoli no matter what, so there’s a lesson there, too: no campaign will successfully win the favor of the entire universe, regardless of how clever the PR pro is.

So how does public relations work:

  1. Understand your client’s goal. Maybe it’s to increase sales, boost attendance at an event, raise awareness about a cause, or pass a ballot measure.
  2. Learn what makes the target audience tick and in what scenario they’ll be most likely to listen to your client’s message. Use this knowledge to craft the campaign.
  3. Get third-party endorsement. A key factor in successful PR campaigns, third-party endorsement is basically peer or public influence. For a fundraising event, let’s say, the media and local businesses support it, so your audience decides it’s a good idea to attend. With the broccoli example, the third-party nudge may come from Junior’s older sister. If she likes the forest, maybe he will, too.

At the end of the day, the hope is to have created win-wins for everyone involved – clients and the publics that are integral to their success. Smiles all around. That, for me, is what makes the work rewarding. Plus, I like broccoli.

July 21, 2011

Life lessons: Becoming an official adult — no degree for that.

Titling this post was difficult because I don’t know where to start. I’m about two months overdue for publishing a personal blog post, and the time that has gone by has been a whirlwind of life changes and learning. My brain is swirling with new ideas and thoughts — mostly from my new experiences in the short while that I’ve been a college graduate and full-time employee at a marketing firm called CAWOOD. The title you see isn’t perfect because it’s contradictory; my college degree was a major step in my journey of becoming an official adult. So, in essence, there is a degree accounted for. Oh well — moving forward.

I’m not sure where my evenings go when I get off work each day, but they go fast. So, here I am again, out of time to write, about to watch the 11 p.m. news before snoozing until my 7 a.m. alarm sounds (which still isn’t easy to be happy about after four years of typical days starting with 10 a.m. classes that I could attend in my yoga pants), and I’m off to another fast-paced day in the marketing world.

And, I love it.

So stay tuned for a more extensive post about what I’ve learned in the past two months — about public relations, marketing (yes, there’s a differentiation), full-time employment, cancer survivors, health and myself.

Thank you, CAWOOD, for throwing me a graduation celebration! They invited me to wear my regalia to the festivity, so, of course I did. Check out the company blog where this picture was posted.

A few teasers for topics in the next post:

  • Call me, “Lindsey Kate, the little dynamo”
  • Post-graduation fast track: Am I ready?
  • Communication: the rules and its powers
  • Based on all the coffee cups, this must be an official office
  • News matters, really
  • Working for a client, not a grade
  • Daily inspiration from strangers (and quotes on tea bag labels)
  • Lifestyle improvements – biking and whole food cooking

Details to come soon. Toodle-loo!

March 1, 2011

Girls Rule, Boys Drool: What Makes Women More Prone to PR Than Men?

Sitting in a classroom of Allen Hall – the beloved building that houses journalists and PR professionals in training on the University of Oregon campus – I realized that all but one of my public relations professors are women and four of my sixteen classmates are men. Why so imbalanced? Are men unwelcome in the PR world?

Apparently, the 75-percent-female majority in UO public relations classrooms is an example of women dominating the industry. According to Dr. Brenda J. Wrigley, associate professor and public relations department chair at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, 85 percent of public relations practitioners are women. Similarly, out of the 21,000 public relations and communications professionals in Public Relations Society of America and its affiliated student branch (PRSSA), 73 percent are women.

Women in professional industries fight head-to-head with men for management positions and equal pay. Photo from

Despite this predominantly female influence, 80 percent of top management in the industry are men, and women still tend to earn less than men. Wrigley notes that when a profession becomes feminized, salaries tend to decrease along with a diminished status of the profession; she includes nursing as another example of this phenomenon. Due to recent changes in the economy, however, the wage gap is the smallest it’s ever been. The gap is closing because men are losing jobs in industries like manufacturing and construction and taking relatively low-paying jobs, while women maintain their positions in government and health care and also move into high-paying professional jobs  such as accountants, lawyers and physicians.

For me and my twentysomethings female friends, recent news shows that the wage gap is even smaller. In 2009,  for full-time wage and salary workers, the weekly earnings of women ages 20-24 were 92.9 percent that of men’s in the same age group, and the earnings of the 25-34 age group differed by 88.7 percent. The report attributes the shrinking gap to increasing numbers of women with college diplomas and less tolerance of pay discrimination than previous generations.

“Why do you think 70 percent of the profession is women?” Mark Ragan, CEO of Lawrence Ragan Communications, asks three leading ladies of the industry. I’ve summarized the characteristics that they believe draw women naturally to PR, and you can also watch their interview below.

  1. Multitasking: Gemme Craven, senior vice president of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, responds that the female species is particularly good at multitasking, and PR requires this skill to switch from task to task.
  2. Educational background: Alayna Francis, vice president of communications at Swiss Re (Americas Division) agrees that multitasking is an important element, but educational background also plays a role in shaping PR as a female-dominated industry. She explains that generally women are still encouraged to be in the softer sciences like English, social studies and history, as opposed to math and science, and this reverberates to career choices that require similar mindsets.
  3. Detail-oriented and organized: Silvia Davi, vice president of corporate communications for NASDAQ, adds that studies suggest women tend to be more detail-oriented or organized by nature. Given the fast pace of a PR professional’s time, the ability to plan ahead strategically, multitask and not forget details are important factors for success in the PR field.

I want to ensure my male readers that these statistics and opinions do not imply that men cannot be successful in the PR industry. Note the title of the post is “What makes women more prone to PR than men” not better at it. Plus, the “natural” traits that supposedly make women adept PR practitioners can neither be generalized for all womankind nor can they be amiss in all men. The young gentlemen in my public relations courses at UO are intelligent, well-spoken and organized. Take James Watkins, for example, whose blog is actually titled “Prone to PR.” (To give credit where it is well-deserved, thank you, James, for inspiring the title of this post!)

I welcome any additional opinions and reactions – from both women and men – about gender in the PR industry.