Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Freeze Frame with Sharon Partridge (LoyalistPR 06/07)

Freeze Frame is a regular feature of the LoyalistPR blog where we post our findings on what our illustrious alumni are up to and how much they’re making these days (just kidding!).

Today's Freeze Frame features Sharon Partridge (LoyalistPR 06/07). Prior to enrolling in the Post-Graduate Public Relations Program at Loyalist College, Sharon completed a Bachelor of Arts from Dalhousie University in Halifax, and a Bachelor’s of Education from the University of Prince Edward Island.

Freeze Frame: So what are you up to these days, Sharon?

Sharon Partridge:
I am working at Kingston General Hospital as a public affairs specialist, internal communications. I am mainly responsible for the internal newspaper, The Spectrum. I get to tell the “good news!”

FF: What are the three most important lessons you learned in LoyalistPR?

SP: First, your reputation is everything. To be respected in the industry you have to stick to your principles and stand by what you believe in.

Second, writing skills are essential. Edit, edit, edit!

Third, always tell the truth, even if it is bad news. You’ll keep your credibility and people tend to be more forgiving if you have been up front and honest.

FF: What does it take to find a job in PR?

SP: In my case you have to “wow” them during your internship! I think you have to find what you are passionate about and go for it. Always network and build your portfolio.

FF: Any advice for future LoyalistPR students?

SP: PR is an exciting field and there is so much you can do within it. Identify your strengths and build on them to find your niche. Make sure your internship is a great one, it could jump start your career. Learn from every experience, be creative and have fun!

FF: Now that you’re living in 1,000 Island country, we have to ask: what’s your favourite salad dressing?

SP: Hmmmmm…. I’d have to say it’s a “toss-up” between ranch and poppy seed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gearing up!

It's almost that time, everyone! Here at the Post-Grad Public Relations Program at Loyalist College we're gearing up for the beginning of fall classes, and our best year ever.

This year the Post-Grad PR Program is completely full (35 students strong), with a waiting list to boot.

For those who are guaranteed a spot for the fall, we can't wait to begin this new adventure with you!

Enjoy your last week of summer holidays, and we'll see you next Tuesday, September 4th at 9 a.m. in the Gymnasium (Kente Building) for Orientation Day.

We're looking forward to meeting you all in person really soon.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Freeze Frame with James Lewis (LoyalistPR 06/07)

Freeze Frame is a regular feature of the LoyalistPR blog where we post our findings on what our illustrious alumni are up to and how much they’re making these days (just kidding!).

Today's Freeze Frame features James Lewis (LoyalistPR 06/07). Prior to enrolling in the Post-Grad Public Relations Program at Loyalist College, James completed a diploma in Advertising and a post-graduate certificate in Media, Marketing & Sales at Loyalist College.

Freeze Frame:
What are you up to these days (work wise)?

James Lewis: I am working on a contract as a College Advancement and External Relations Officer at Loyalist College. I was given the job after completing my internship. My main role is to plan and ensure that the celebrations for Loyalist's 40th Anniversary are carried out without a hitch. So far we've created a unique 40th anniversary visual identity and planned the events for the following year. I also get to put my skills learned from the PR program into play by helping write media advisories for local papers, among many other tasks.

FF: What are your plans for the fall?

JL: I am planning on heading to Australia this fall. I have been offered a seat in Griffith University's Masters of Marketing program and have the choice of which field I want to study in. I have the choice between Communications, Business, and Criminal Law. I think I may choose the Criminal Law program and study for the BAR exam as well. It's been a dream of mine since I was a young boy to become a lawyer, and a professional hockey player. I am also getting the chance to play on a professional Australian hockey team while I am there. So it looks like both dreams may come true.

FF: What are the three most important lessons you learned in LoyalistPR?

JL: The first is a no-brainer. LoyalistPR taught me to be up front, open and honest, and never hide the truth. The public, and your audience, will appreciate your honesty and forgive you, and your misdeeds far more if you are honest. History shows that brands/companies/organizations that are upfront recover more quickly than those that aren’t honest.

The second is that you must stick to your code of ethics, not those laid out for you. Look into the future and see if there is a possibility that you may be asked by your company to do something that you really aren’t comfortable with. If you feel that you may be asked to do something that your personal code of ethics won’t allow, make it known ahead of time. If you are against doing something, you will never succeed.

The final thing that I learned in LoyalistPR was that writing skills can ALWAYS be improved. I came into the course wanting to polish my English writing skill-set and realized that I have only begun to scratch the surface. Never lose the passion for writing; as a PR practitioner, you will be required to write. A lot. It doesn’t matter if it is an internal memo or a multi-national, cross-media, product launch. You will be judged on how well you communicate. Ensure that you edit, edit, edit, and then get someone else to edit. Your words represent you and your company so you must make them the best that you can.

FF: Any words of wisdom for up-and-coming PR students at Loyalist?

JL: Don’t be afraid to get your paws a little dirty. You have to be willing to do what no one else will to get ahead in this industry. You will have long hours, hard work, maybe a bad boss or two, and probably more than a few missed parties/weekends but it will be worth it.

Make yourself valuable, but not un-replaceable; because if you are un-replaceable you will never move up. Do the jobs you’re assigned to, and enjoy them. Show initiative to do the jobs you weren’t asked to do, and reap the rewards.

Don’t give up if you don’t get your pie-in-the-sky job straight out of college. You’ve got a lot of time to become a PR guru, so use it to your advantage. Everyone in the PR industry knows one another. The sky is the limit with PR, and the industry is only going to grow.

FF: Ok, so who's your favourite Australian actor or actress and what's the best flick they ever starred in?

JL: Everyone probably wants me to say Mel Gibson in Braveheart or Nicole Kidman in Batman. Although I like both actors, and most of the movies they play in, I have to go with another Aussie on this one. Eric Banna in Chopper. You’ve never heard of it have you? Well then, you’ve got something to rent for next week. I don’t suggest that you let the kiddies watch it though. It’s about Australia’s baddest Gangster and his rise to infamy. It’s based on a true story and the New York Time’s best-selling book, written by the illiterate Mark Brandon “Chopper” Reid. It’s a pretty killer movie, and Banna plays an amazing role. You’d actually believe that he was the real Chopper.

FF: Any final words?

JL: G’day, mate -- time to throw another shrimp on the barby...

Monday, August 06, 2007

PR vs. advertising at 36,000 feet

My husband and I flew on a discount airline to Atlanta last week – and even though I had never even heard of AirTran before, assured us they were legit!

An hour or so into our flight, we were served the traditional discount airline fare: pretzels.

Only these were pretzels with, well, a twist.

As I read the pretzel package (because, after all, what better way is there to pass the time on a two-hour flight?), I actually smiled. The front of the package read:

"How to eat gourmet pretzels on a low-fare airline."

When I flipped the package over, the words continued:

1. Think about our wonderful low fares at as you open packet.
2. Place a pretzel in mouth. With each crunch, be reminded of our low fares.
3. As you swallow, remember again just how low the fares are.
4. Repeat until pretzel packet is empty.
5. Keep empty packet to remind yourself to book at for our lowest fares and no booking fees.

Like I said, I was bored enough that the cute attempt at airline humour actually made me crack a smile.

Pan now to the cocktail napkin on my seat tray. Actually, it wasn’t so much a napkin as a 4x4 ad for the latest brown cola to hit the U.S.

Sitting there in my seat at 36,000 feet, I read the ad pitch. But this time, I did not smile.

For some reason, the ad seemed invasive to me. As if I couldn’t escape the pitchman even here, a mile high above the earth’s surface.

Which made me wonder to myself: what was the difference between the pretzels and the cocktail napkin? Both were clearly attempts to gain my support and (ultimately) consumer dollars.

Why had AirTran succeeded when the brown cola company had so utterly failed?

Then I faintly remembered a passage from brand guru Lynn Upshaw’s new book, Nothing But the Truth. I looked it up later and here’s what Upshaw writes:

“Promoting honestly, and not invasively, is a big issue now. The customer is saying you’re not invited to my party, and we’re surprising them in the shower. There are so many instances with people seeing commercial messages when they don’t want to. You have to respect your consumer’s privacy.”

What it came down to, at least the way I see it, is that I had already invited AirTran to my party. I mean, there I was, sitting in the seat, wasn’t I?

So when I read a little joke about discount airlines, I got it. I laughed. I bought in. Because AirTran and I had already struck up a relationship.

Cola company XYZ, on the other hand, had not been invited to my party, and I was annoyed at the invasion of my privacy.

The experience reminded me how important public relations has become in the world of branding, and how skeptical we’ve become as a culture to commercial over-messaging.

So, kudos to Air Tran, and as for Cola Company XYA – give it a rest, would you?

Here’s to clear skies!