Techniques and Cases in Public Relations

Community Relations

Kathleen O’Dell, Community Relations Director for the Springfield Greene County Library, paid a visit to our class the other day to cover the topic of community relations. It was a very interesting presentation over the subject because the libraries main audience are their patrons who are members of the community, therefore making community relations a crucial focus to drive traffic to the libraries of Springfield Greene County. A community relations specialist is defined by PRSA as, “Community relations specialists are responsible for developing and implementing community outreach programs including social & community awareness incentives. They work with the organization to create programs that promote the organization’s image in a positive and community-oriented way. Community relations specialists set up internal events, fairs and other community events to incorporate the organization into the community.” Kathleen O’Dell does all of this and maybe more for the libraries of Springfield and Greene County.

Kathleen started out in the world as an eager journalist interested in covering stories of all kinds. This background gave her an interesting view point when she finally entered the PR world due to her history in dealing with other community relations specialists and knowing what the media was looking for when dealing with these professionals. Kathleen has been at her current position for six years now and is a veteran in the community relations world. She handles everything from press releases, social media, all literature for promotions for the libraries as well as events, minor educational training sessions with library staff who do not have a background on how to handle PR or media type situations and raising money for the renewal of the Brentwood branch library. Kathleen has a large staff for a smaller organization, which she is grateful for as they help her to get messages out as well as design the artwork for campaigns.

Kathleen gave some advice to the class for when and if we ever have to put on our community relations hat that I found not only insightful but helpful as well. She said it is vital to your company or organization to always get staff involved, excited and educated on events, campaigns and promotions because they are your biggest brand ambassadors. If they are knowledgeable and interested in what is happening within the organization than your audience and customers will be as well. Monitoring administration and staff relations is also important because you never want to have them going rogue and creating their own signage or mixing the message you have carefully laid out in a community relations plan. Kathleen said she even had to create a “Wall of Shame” in her office for library fliers created without approval and posted in the libraries. However comical this may be, she said it seemed to have worked and scared the staff into letting her be in charge of the signage as it is her job.

Community Relations is a crucial part of being a PR practitioner because it is cultivating and fostering a relationship between your brand and the community. A positive image in the community will go a long way not only in support for your company or organization, but in bringing awareness to the causes your brand is representing. Besides all of the importance it has for your brand it just seems like a good, heartwarming time to create programs and events in the community that will directly benefit patrons of your company or organization. I would be interested in seeing what company or organization is thought of to have an outstanding community relations reputation.

Techniques and Cases in Public Relations

Internal Relations

The general goal as a public relations practitioner is to achieve internal and external harmony. It is more than just communicating with your external audiences, but your internal audience and stakeholders as well. If it is found that the internal relations of a company or organization is not all on the same page or dissatisfied as an employee, the productivity from these employees will not be as successful as it could be. Let’s go ahead and take a look at a few cases in which plans to improve internal relations were successful with Linhart Public Relations, The USDA and State Farm.

Linhart Public Relations is a PR firm that decided to take a look within themselves in order to accomplish “Creating a Great Place to Work, Thrive & Grow.” In doing so they wanted to retain talent while also building a workplace to attract new talent. The strategies used were clearly outlining employee expectations, holding meetings to make sure these expectations were being met, team building activities, counseling, paid volunteer hours, and PR training seminars. Linhart PR recognized that they needed to revamp their internal relations plan in order to stay competitive in the workforce for their current employees and future employees. Showing their employees they care about their feelings and needs through counseling, care for a team environment through team building activities, and fostering the education of their practitioners is really what made this successful. Linhart PR proved they care about their team, and not just their bottom line which is a quality in a company I know I would love to see as a future PR practioner. Similar to Linhart PR, in the sense that an internal relations revamp was needed, was State Farm Insurance. State Farm found that not only was business in the auto insurance department was down, but employee satisfaction was dwindling. By implementing centralized message management, attempting to grow employee engagement and support and hoping to achieve strong business results, State Farm was able to increase their business and employee satisfaction. State Farm embraced new online technology which helped their agents in the job performance category. The messaging seen in the media and distributed through the company was now consistent and helped employees to feel more at ease. I feel that State Farm did a great job in changing with the changing world around them and not getting stuck in the pre-tech era. This helped them increase their bottom line, which as an employee I know I would be more satisfied with myself if I was performing better at my job. Mixed messaging in a company is also unsettling so centralizing the message and information was a route State Farm needed to take in order to secure their employees.

The USDA did not attempt to re-structure internal relations in the same ways as the previous two cases, however they did need to educate their stakeholders, farmers in America as well as the general population, over the soil concerns beginning to occur. With less and less top soil available every year, the USDA needed to stop and take a moment to come up with a new way to conserve soil through new farming techniques. This prompted a carefully strategized educational campaign that needed to be distributed to the farmers in America as well as awareness of the issue to the general public. Education is a form of internal relations and the USDA was successful at bringing awareness to this soil issue as well as having 6 million acres of cropland positively affected and 9 million tons of top soil saved. Crisis situations will arise within organizations and being prepared to combat them and educate stakeholders is a must i order to survive as a successful organization today.

Internal relations can be anything from disgruntled, dissatisfied employees, or a decline in productivity to a brewing crisis facing your company or organization. Being able to take a step back and deciding which plan will work best to turn the situation around is vital to an internal relations strategy. Your company or organizations stakeholders are the biggest ambassadors for your brand and therefore need to be taken into consideration when evaluating how successful your company or organization was for the year.

Techniques and Cases in Public Relations

Media Relations

Every company or organization has a message they are trying to convey to their audience. At times, the company or organization’s message may be lost or may need to change due to the changing world around them. This means having to formulate a calculated and strategic campaign to convey to the public that the company or organization has something new to say or express. It is vital to any campaign to have a strong media relations presence to magnify the campaign’s exposure to the targeted audience. Let’s go ahead and take a look at how Hallmark, Visit Philadelphia and Netflix effectively used media relations to their advantage in their respective campaigns.

Hallmark noticed a decline in sales in their birthday cards which prompted them to launchHallmark-Birthday-Fail-Text-Hilarious a campaign centered around the idea, or hashtag, #birthdayfail. They used media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to get their message out and posted humorous content, videos showcasing celebrity spokespeople as well as hosting online contests. This campaign took place two years ago and was a success due to the fact that they took advantage of social media, knowing that, after doing primary and secondary research, their target audience was a demographic that could be easily accessible through the platforms of Facebook and Twitter. Social media is an excellent media relations tool as the ability to share, “like” and boost posts exists leading to more views and impressions. Another Campaign that used social media in their campaign was Visit Philadelphia. Visit Philadelphia launched a campaign centered on the city’s charming and trendy neighborhoods that surrounded the downtown area. After doing careful research, it was found tourists were interested in more than just downtown Philly. The campaign utilized many media relation tools, one being their Instagram account, @visitphillly. By showcasing the neighborhoods being used in the campaign, the campaign was able to gain more exposure through the views and impressions made on social media. Visit Philadelphia could have also gained more exposure and success if other social media had been used such as Facebook and Twitter, however, Visit Philadelphia used more traditional media relations tools as well, such as its website and designating an arm of the site to showcase the neighborhoods which helped to generate numerous print, blog, TV and radio stories over the campaign.Visit-Philadelphia-Neighborhood-Map1-1024x413

Another company that utilized traditional media in one of their recent campaigns was Netflix. Netflix needed to create a campaign after noticing that the site was not thought of as having a large library of trendy television shows, but that of movies instead. At the same time the phrase “binge watch” was beginning to trend and Netflix launched a binge-watching-2campaign using the phrase in a positive light to let their target audience know that there were television shows on the site that could be binge-watched. Netflix reached out to the Wall Street Journal who then wrote an article that launched the binge watch campaign. Even though Netflix now has a cultural ownership over the act of binge-watching a TV series, I feel as if the use of traditional media for this campaign was not the only route that should have been take. Since people have the ability download Netflix and stream shows on their smart phones, I feel that Netflix should have utilized social media as the catalyst for their campaign by creating a hashtag and running the conversation on the act binge-watching seeing as their target audience takes to social media to talk about what shows they are currently watching or seeking advice on which show to start “binging” on next.

As I said before, media relations is like a magnifying glass for whatever campaign your company or organization is trying to promote and will be one of the most effective means of communication with your audience. Deciding to forgo traditional or newer media outlets is really the only decision that needs to be made, however utilizing both will never hurt and usually can result with maximum exposure. I am partial to social media, as it is not going anywhere and continues to develop everyday with new ways to interact with audiences that make it easier for companies, organizations and public figures to connect with generations of all ages making it a powerhouse tool in your belt for media relations purposes.

Techniques and Cases in Public Relations

Media Relations Plan

Chapter six discusses the building of better relationships with media and developing an online media strategy. This is a broad chapter topic, so I have decided to focus in on the aspects of the growth of business coverage in the media and socializing a media relations strategy. I will take a look at how these two topics relate to the Netflix ,“Taking the Bite out of the Binge” case. Through analyzing how these topics relate to the case, we can better understand why this case was a success and continues to be.

In years past, Netflix was thought of as more of a movie watching site rather than one where someone could find an assortment of relevant TV watching. Around this same time the phrase “binge watching” also emerged and was seen as something negative with relations to being a couch potato. Netflix decided they would take control of the conversation about what their site was known for and using the “binge watching” trend in their favor. To do so they had to choose a media outlet to release their campaign to and ended up going with the Wall Street Journal.

By embracing a traditional media outlet and taking advantage of the growth of business coverage in the media, Netflix made a smart decision to choose the WSJ. Netflix used the “binge watching” trend in their article to associate it to a positive feeling rather than one of laziness. Today, if you key in “Netflix” and “Binge” into the Twitter search bar over 100,000 tweets become available. Netflix now owns “binging” on television and has used social media to keep their followers up to date on the latest and greatest shows that have become available in their library. The first of every month offers a new wave of binge-worthy entertainment on the Netflix site and links and reminders are updated on social media religiously.

The Netflix case is a success due to the fact that they not only took control of the conversation and used a negatively viewed trend as a hook to gain subscribers, but they also had a well laid out media plan to make sure their messaging was received in the correct way. By utilizing a traditional news outlet like the Wall Street Journal they were able to put an article into a prestigious publication, as well as using social media since then to cultivate binging on a Netflix show to be as attractive as a night on the town with friends. The fact that many people in my demographic would pass up an opportunity to go out and be intoxicated on weekend because they are binge watching their favorite Netflix show is an accomplishment within itself. Human interaction is something that we should be placing above staying inside, cuddled in bed with our eyes glued to a laptop screen, but thanks to the Netflix campaign of binge watching our priorities have shifted. The urge to binge is an addiction like any other, so have you succumbed to hours of television yet?