by Navjot Grewal

Today we hear a lot about Integrated Marketing Communications, but what does it mean for PR professionals in the age of social media? Keith Quesenberry shared useful advice on how to integrate social media in communications at the PRSSA 2013 National Conference in Philadelphia.

Quesenberry, a lecturer in the Center for Leadership Education at the Johns Hopkins University and instructor at the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Graduate Program at West Virginia University, said that traditional IMC that delivers consistent messages through “consumer touch points” (anything that reaches the consumer) does not work today in the age of Web 2.0 Organizations should start interacting with social media consumers who trust each other more than the businesses, Quesenberry said. He outlined five steps to include social media integration into business communication:

1. Integrate Social Media through Research 

Social media can be used to monitor and understand what is being said about you and your competitors. Using various free and paid services like Google Analytics and HubSpot can do this.

2. Integrate Social Media through Crowd Sourcing 

You can do big tasks by getting your consumers involved. Crowd Sourcing helps capture ideas, engage consumers and discover what ideas work.

3. Integrate Social Media through Branded Content 

Give valuable content to your consumers through social media. Best Buy developed TWELPFORCE, a 24/7 expert technical helpline from employees, which reduced consumer complaints by 20 percent in its first year. Set social media guidelines and let your employees speak for you.

4. Integrate Social Media through Customer Evangelism

Find mass connectors and mass mavens, and reach out to them. Identify your customer evangelist network.

5. Integrate Social Media through Customer Service

Fill the communication gap between you and the consumer by responding to them on social media. However, Quesenberry advises to take the consumer offline in the case of addressing complaints once the conversation has been initiated.

Stephanie Smithby Stephanie Smith

Often, public relations students will approach me—after hearing that I worked for the federal government for nearly 30 years—and say, “I’d really like to work for the federal government. How do I go about landing a job there?”

They’re often surprised when my response is a simple question: “What is it about government work that interests you?” If this question is met with blank stares, I usually follow up by asking: “What issues do you care about? What sort of public service are you passionate about?”

These questions can be conversation stoppers.

I’m still trying to figure out why, but it may be the case that for many students, the federal government looks sort of monolithic—if you work for the federal government, you work for the government. End of conversation.

In truth, working for the government in public affairs, including public engagement, public information and public advocacy, is highly differentiated. No two agencies of the government are the same; they differ by mission, by culture and by design. This means, of course, that the role of the public communicator will differ depending on where one works within the government. I spent nearly 30 years working in national security and intelligence; that’s quite a different mission and culture than working for the Department of Agriculture.

Explaining those differences, of course, is what high school civics classes are all about and not the purpose of this blog. Instead, I’ll focus on a few “essentials” for those who want to pursue a career in government public affairs, whether as a federal employee or as a contractor working for an agency that supports the government.

• Understand the role of government and the legislative process.  Remember that old School House Rock cartoon, often rebroadcast by Jon Stewart, about how a bill becomes a law?  It turns out that’s pretty important stuff. The government, at any level, works with issues, policy, laws and legislators. If you aren’t sure about how government works or about how the legislative process works, get familiar with it.

• Pick your passion—and do your homework.  Are you interested in terrorism? Anti-bullying legislation? The environment? Food safety? Human trafficking? Healthcare reform? Or is your passion working for political campaigns, such as getting people elected or getting legislation passed?

One of the best ways to prepare for a public affairs job is to immerse yourself in an issue that plays to your passions. Study the issue deeply and understand who influences that issue. Which departments of government, which specific legislators and which specific lobbying groups and public interest groups focus on the issue? If you are interested in healthcare reform, for example, take some public health classes. Read all that you can. This information will be helpful with your job search strategy, on your résumé and in job interviews.

And by the way, it usually takes time to land a public affairs job inside the federal government. Start preparing now.

• Know the difference between public relations and public affairs. Yes, there are similarities. Both work with goals, strategies and objectives. Both use the tools and tactics of communication. Both seek to share information, promote understanding and persuade people. Both seek to build, manage and sustain relationships with stakeholder publics.

Public affairs, however, primarily handles issues, not commercial activity. In public affairs, you deal with causes, problems, public policy and laws. You build real grassroots coalitions and you deal with many types of stakeholders. (Think of the hundreds of stakeholder groups involved with healthcare reform.)

If you become a government employee, you will probably not be concerned with business development, client relations and billable hours. But you will be concerned with constituent relations, accountability reviews and congressional inquiries.

• Understand reputation management and crisis management. Let’s face it, the federal government isn’t popular. Most Americans see it as too big, too costly and too ineffective until they need it. If you work in government public affairs, you will be dealing with a “client” who is always controversial and frequently misunderstood, one whose reputation regularly takes a beating in the press.  Sure, people complain when Starbucks® raises their prices, but they still line up for coffee (at absurd prices) and they don’t scream that Starbucks should be eliminated. When people get mad at the government, the issues are usually large, the stakes are high and tempers are hot. (Think about the whole debate over the healthcare.gov website.) You will always be explaining, defending and protecting your client’s reputation, you will regularly face crises of public confidence, you will always face vocal and passionate opponents and you will be expected to fix real problems—not to simply create cool viral videos or Pinterest postings.

Bottom line: If you like working for clients that are cool, fun, hip and beloved by their customers, government public affairs is probably not for you. But if you like working on big ideas, if you want to be part of big change and if you want to make a difference in people’s lives, government public affairs is an endlessly fascinating and meaningful career.

by Lyndsey Sager

“Keep your eyes wide open. You never know what’s going to present itself for you.” – Commander Brook DeWalt

In one of many helpful professional development sessions during the PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia late last month, I had the opportunity to hear from Commander Brook DeWalt, a Navy public affairs officer with experience as the director of public affairs for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, along with many other positions.

DeWalt’s presentation was about public affairs and, more specifically, public communications, as he likes to call it. He believes public communications is an “all-encompassing” term for the broad field he works in.

When DeWalt first started college, he was a music major who thought he’d be a concert tubaist. Eventually, he switched his major to journalism, and after working in promotions for a movie theater, DeWalt joined the Navy reserves. As a reservist for public affairs, DeWalt worked on basic press releases and edited the “U.S. Navy” magazine. Eventually, he decided to make Navy public affairs his full-time career.

From there, DeWalt has had multiple opportunities to change career paths. At one point, he was a public affairs officer at sea in Japan. Later, he became the director of public affairs for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, the most highly-criticized military facility on the face of the planet.

What does it take to experience a successful career in public affairs? Below, DeWalt provides seven tips for students interested in public affairs, as well as public relations in general:

  1. Transparency is a big deal.
  2. Always consider how the activities you’re dealing with affect the larger organization. Is it serving the best interest of your boss? In the case of government public affairs, your boss is the taxpaying American.
  3. Get the tactics down early. Understand the basics— press releases and proper use of the English language are musts.
  4. Mentors are vital. Have more than one mentor if you can.
  5. Develop and maintain not just contacts, but relationships as well. Social media makes that easy.
  6. Watch your online profiles and make sure you’re presenting yourself well publically. Just because you can post a picture of a party online doesn’t mean you should.
  7. Stay current on current events, not just entertainment gossip. Look at foreign policy magazines and keep tabs on politics if you’re interested in a public affairs career.

If you’re interested in a career in public affairs, check USAJobs regularly.

Also, Kent State has a great resource for learning even more about the field of public affairs. School of Journalism and Mass Communication lecturer Stephanie Smith served around 30 years with the United States government (25 of which with the CIA). To learn more about Smith’s experience, check back Nov. 15 to read her guest post.

Hey there! My name is Michael Lopick, PRSSA Kent’s Co-VP of Membership, Michaelsophomore public relations major and commuter student. I’m here to tell you, just as the heading implies, that it really is all about the give and take.

So, what do I mean by “give and take”?

Basically, give and take is my attempt at a metaphor to describe why getting involved on campus is so important for a variety of reasons. As a commuter student, I definitely understand that joining a club or organization can be tough, but I’m here to say that with a bit of compromising and a lot of heart, you can find just how beneficial it can be.

Here’s what you have to GIVE

Committing to anything is a challenge, especially when it seems like you have so many other priorities that already occupy most of your time. Between classes, homework, family and friends, how can you squeeze one more thing in? Well, here’s where you have to give a little and use those time management skills you learned in those freshman First Year Experience classes you took (bet you thought you’d never hear about those again). Most times, committing seems a lot more daunting than it really is, and you just have to take the plunge. You’ll often find that it’s easier to schedule than it seems, and those organizations are very good at working around your personal agenda.

Once you commit, the real giving begins. Don’t join an organization if you’re not planning on being active in it. This means you actually have to go to meetings, sign up for committees and be the one that other members can depend on. Just saying you’re part of an organization doesn’t cut it. You have to be able to show what you’ve done. Now, I’m not saying you need to be a multitasking maniac, but make sure you do at least one activity with your group per semester, especially if you pay dues. Get your money’s worth!

After all that work, here’s what you’re going to TAKE

  1. Connections: Whether it be with other students, faculty or professionals in your field, the connections you make when you put yourself out there are essential to beginning a successful career, both academic and professional.
  2. Real-World Experience: So you have a high GPA, that’s great. Keep it up, but know your resume won’t warrant a second glance if you don’t have experience. Going out and getting involved in professional associations like PRSSA shows initiative and passion for what you do.
  3. Friends: Really. While you’re out there doing your PR thing, make sure you actually get to know the people you’re networking with, you might just find a new life-long friend!

Where to look 

There are a ton of places and organizations on-campus offering amazing opportunities that relate to your area of study including:

- PRSSA (of course!)

- Franklin Advertising Association

- Flash Communications

- IdeaBase

- The Student Recreation and Wellness Center

Just to name a few! Now go out, be fearless and get involved!

Follow Michael on Twitter @michaellopick

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If you attended our first meeting last week but aren’t quite convinced about joining the Kent Chapter of PRSSA, read these top 10 reasons to join the Public Relations Student Society of America.

BlastOff10. You can make new friends.

By attending our Chapter meetings, you’re able to talk to and get to know other PRSSA members and officers. It’s a great place to meet driven, like-minded people!

9. You can take part in a national PR competition.

PRSSA Kent participates in the Bateman Case Study Competition each year. Two teams of five dedicated PRSSA students compete against schools across the nation to create and implement a public relations campaign. All team members must be PRSSA members and invited by PR faculty to participate. Last year, the PRSSA Kent Bateman Blue Team placed second in the nation!

8. You can attend a national conference.

Meet members from Chapters across the country by attending the PRSSA National Conference. The conference is held in a different location every year. This year, students will travel to Philadelphia, PA, to network with professionals, attend informational sessions and more.

7. You’re eligible for more than $20,000 in scholarships and awards.

PRSSA itself offers $20,000 in scholarships. Other organizations also offer awards to students who participate in PRSSA.

6. You can be a leader.

Whether you’re a sophomore or a senior, everyone is welcome to apply for a leadership position during Spring semester. PRSSA officers learn to sharpen their leadership skills and put them to use throughout their term of office.

5. You can take what you learn in class and put it to work.

Join PRSSA committees to hone event planning and fundraising skills. Our chapter works with Kent State’s Ad Club to plan and execute a networking event called Communications Connection. You can also help plan the annual YouToo Social Media Conference and work with Akron PRSA professionals. Some of these committees are formed with the sole purpose of raising money for our Chapter to fund trips to PRSSA National Conference or for worldwide charities to fund cancer research.

4. You can boost your resume.

Some employers are specifically looking to hire PRSSA alumni. Show your involvement, experience and leadership skills by putting PRSSA activities on your resume.

3. You can receive mentorship from officers and advisers.

2013-2014 Officers

PRSSA Kent’s officers are dedicated to making your membership experience worthwhile. If you have questions about the organization, PR courses, internships and more, the PRSSA officers are ready and willing to answer them.

2. You can network with students interested in similar fields.

Your public relations classmates today will be professionals in the workforce in a few years. The connections you make with your peers in PRSSA could help you land your dream job in the future.

1. You can network with professionals.

PRSSA Kent not only invites professionals to our Chapter meetings to speak about their experiences in public relations, we also attend events hosted by our parent organization, the Public Relations Society of America, or PRSA. These events are designed specifically for PRSSA members and are held both in-person and online via Twitter. Additionally, we invite around 20 professionals to network specifically with Kent students in November at Communications Connection. The professionals you meet through PRSSA may be your key to a job after graduation.

For more information about membership, visit the PRSSA Kent website.

I’ve never lived on my own before. I commute to Kent State, and I’ve always had the helping hand of my parents to guide me through everything. It was time for me to fly from the nest, though, and I decided the best way to start would be moving to Florida to work at Walt Disney World for a semester. Why not?

 When I was a freshman, a fellow CCI student, Brett Parr, encouraged me to look into the Disney College Program. I researched the program and saw how successful its alumni are within the Fortune 500 company. The networking opportunities the website described sounded too amazing to pass up. After speaking to my advisor about it for months, planning out how I could still graduate on time, saving my scholarships, and passing two separate interviews, I was accepted into the program and moved to Florida in January.

I work at Disney’s Animal Kingdom five days a week as a character attendant. As an attendant, I help characters take photos and sign autographs with guests at dining and meet and greet locations. Since I arrived, I have been able to work with characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger and more.

Another day of my week is spent in a four-hour Corporate Communications class. I am gaining more in-class experience preparing and executing promotional events as a part of my final project. I’m so excited to host a mock Comic Con panel for DreamWorks Animation! Initially, I was worried that the class might be too tough for me, as I heard it was the most challenging class the Disney College Program offered. Thankfully, my Kent State public relations courses couldn’t have prepared me better. I know heaps more than my classmates on subjects such as writing a press release, developing social media posts and creating a PR plan using objectives, strategies, and tactics.

The program also offers an Alumni Speaker series where Disney Imagineers and officials offer tips for success in different areas of the company. I am attending a marketing and social media panel this month, and I can’t wait to hear what the communication specialists have to say.

I’m officially halfway through my program, and I know I’m going to miss the people I’ve met and the fun times I’ve had. I can’t wait to go back to Kent, however, so I can share these experiences with my classmates and friends.

For more information about the Disney College Program, visit http://cp.disneycareers.com/en/default/.

Follow Meghan on Twitter @Meghan_Caprez.

In today’s Internet-crazed society, it’s important to keep up and stay connected with social media. While we all want to stay involved, it’s important we’re sending the right message online. Here are four ways I manage my personal brand online:

1. Edit – Often, we hear it’s important to filter the content we post on social media sites. This can be critical. I think it’s important to show your personality while keeping a professional image.

2. Blog – I use my blog to help manage my brand. I use it to engage with people who have similar interests, and I explain where I want to take my interest in PR.

3. Update – I try to make sure I’m updating my social networks often so I don’t disappear online. It’s not enough to simply have an online presence. You must stay consistent and maintain that presence.

4. Connect – I use the same username for all networks. I want it to be easy for my audience to find and recognize me online. I also list on my blog the platforms I use and post my blog’s link on all of my networking profiles.

These are some easy ways I control my message online. If you need help, use these tips to get you started. If you’re on your way to building your online presence, share steps you take in managing your brand.

Marcus Donaldson is a sophomore public relations major and PRSSA Kent member.

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Hello all! My name is Devin Hennessy, and I am a transfer student coming from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Some Background On Me…

I started at Slippery Rock thinking I was going to graduate in five short years with a physical therapy degree. However, after taking Intro to Chemistry my first semester, I quickly learned my brain doesn’t work that way. I switched out of the physical therapy program and finally found my way into public relations. I knew immediately I found my niche. Although Slippery Rock was a good school, it was a little too small (and in the middle of nowhere) for me. I had applied at Kent State originally and loved it so I decided to make the big switch and start all over again.

My Time at Kent State

My experience with the School of Journalism & Mass Communication has already been incredible. I was immediately introduced to so many opportunities. I got in contact with the president and main editor of KSUBuzz, which is Kent State’s student-run entertainment website. It includes everything from the most recent pop news, relationship advice and deals to find around Kent State! I was so lucky she hired me as the social media director. Along with social media, I write an article a week for the website.

What I’ve Learned (So Far)

I attended the semester’s first PRSSA meeting and got to know a bunch of smart students in the organization who I can look up to and obtain their guidance.. The members encouraged me to finally post my personal blog (devinfaith.wordpress.com). So far, there is not much to it, but it will get there – I promise! PRSSA members also shared advice about PR classes, which will become extremely helpful to me when I schedule. Best of all, Ryan, PRSSA’s online media manager, offered me this wonderful opportunity to contribute and practice my skills with a guest blog post.

Overall, I would say the best part of my experience has been the openness of the school for new students to get involved. I look forward to the weekly PRSSA meetings, and I never felt that excited at my old school. I am happy to say I made the right choice in switching schools to get the most out of my public relations education!

Anyone in the wrong major knows all about the sinking feeling you get when you calculate how soon graduation is. It’s scary to think of receiving a degree in something you don’t enjoy! That feeling also comes around when you schedule more classes you don’t really enjoy or when you have to look for an internship or job you don’t think you’ll like. It’s clear you need something new, but what if you don’t know where to turn?

I’ve been there. I’m Ryan Collins, the online media manager for PRSSA Kent. I love working with PRSSA, but how did I get here?

I was a journalism major for almost two years. I knew I loved to write as a kid, so I thought journalism was a natural choice for me. I tried all kinds of student media, but I never felt totally satisfied. Thankfully, with the help of some caring friends, I decided to take a leap of faith and finally become an ex-journalism major. I switched to public relations.

Ever since I switched, I have set myself on a crash course learning PR.  I need to buy a button like this and wear it all the time:

I have a job working at Flash Communications, the student PR agency in Kent State’s University Communication and Marketing department. Here are some of my favorite things about PR

  • I confess: My favorite thing about working in public relations is all the positivity! At Flash and PRSSA, we’re focused on all the fabulous things happening at Kent State University every day. I love that about PR. We’re happy people.
  • I confess: Being a study abroad alum, I love writing stories focused on other countries. I recently wrote a story about a KSU student who visited Jamaica and another story about a class that takes KSU students to Costa Rica over winter breaks. Working in public relations allows me to tell the Kent State community how beneficial it is to study abroad and see the world.
  • I confess: Working in PR is special to me because I get to work with top communication professionals and faculty at Kent State. I get feedback directly from people who I respect.
  • I confess: I love the intangible feeling of being fulfilled. My public relations classes and my jobs at Flash and PRSSA inspire me! PR motivates me to work hard. Even though this field is competitive, I love what I do. A career that emphasizes Twitter clearly is amazing.

If you want to be an ex-(insert your current major here) and switch to public relations, visit the Kent State Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) website to learn more.

PS. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment of PR specialists is expected to grow 24 percent from 2008-2018.  Once again, I love this field for its positive outlook!

[Cross-posted and adapted from Student PR.]

Bill Sledzik, associate professor and PR sequence coordinator, as well as senior PRSSA Kent officers Lindsay Ridinger and Sarah Lack, led an ethics discussion at our general meeting on Wednesday. The students who attended learned how ethics applies to PR as they discussed several case studies involving ethical decision making.

What is ethics anyway?Image

Ethics has several different meanings. Some would argue it’s all about telling the truth. Others would say it’s all about values and morals. Put simply, ethics can be defined as doing the “right” thing.

As Professor Sledzik mentioned, PR professionals often encounter ethical dilemmas. There is not always a clear right or wrong answer in ethical decisions. So, before you make your final decision, Sledzik advises to stop and think: “Am I doing the right thing?”

Why is ethics important to public relations?

Students argued that PR professionals should take ethics seriously because a brand’s image is important to the consumer and other target audiences. Companies and organizations should value customers’ trust, and a code of ethics helps regulate the acceptable business practices that ensure trust. Honesty and trustworthiness often grant success.

PRSSA Kent discussed the following cases:

Key points to remember:

  • Don’t hide the truth from the media
  • Try your best to determine the “right” thing to do
  • Be transparent with the public

We hope to see you at our next general meeting, Facetime with PRSSA, on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Franklin Hall. Bring questions about class, schedules, PR and more, or bring along your favorite board game!

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