Friday, February 26, 2010

West Michigan Addys 2010

The AAF West Michigan held its annual ADDY Awards event last night at the Intersection. Professionals walked away with 23 Gold and 58 Silver awards; students earned 5 Gold and 19 Silver. (I believe the U.S. leads the medal count, but the Germans and South Koreans were gaining as my deadline for this blog post approached).

Here's a recap straight from the AAF West Michigan news release:


2010 Best of Show ADDY® Award winners are:

Professional – Sales Promotion, Audio/Visual Sales Presentation: Fairly Painless Advertising for Herman Miller, Inc.

Student – Interactive Media, Online Advertising (Pop-Up/Banner/Email/Other): Elizabeth Zimmerman, Kendall College of Art and Design

Student – Print – Collateral Material, Poster: Gina Caratelli, Grand Valley State University

2010 Judges’ Choice ADDY® Award winners are:

Professional – Collateral Material, Four-color Brochure: Wolverine World Wide for Wolverine

Professional – Elements of Advertising, Photography, Campaign: Highland Group for the Grand Rapids Marathon

Professional – Public Service, Broadcast/Electronic, TV: Greenlight Marketing for Goodwill Inn

Student – Sales Promotion, Packaging: Sarah Vanderson, Kendall College of Art and Design

Entrants earning the largest number of ADDY® Awards this year are:

  • kantorwassink – 11 awards: 3 Gold and 8 Silver ADDY® Awards
  • Highland Group – 10 awards: 5 Gold and 5 Silver ADDY® Awards
  • AUXILIARY Advertising & Design – 9 awards: 3 Gold and 6 Silver ADDY® Awards
  • Fairly Painless Advertising – 8 awards: 3 Gold and 5 Silver ADDY® Awards
The release also mentions that a full list of award winners, with images and descriptions of the work, is available online. As of posting time, that list still includes previous year's winners, which is interesting to peruse for background, but not to be confused with the 2010 winners. (Apparently there is no award this year in the category of making sure the Web site has what the news release promises). But, this sort of thing happens to the best of us, and these people are certainly the best of us. I'd check back to see when the 2010 list is up--it's a great review of best practice in West Michigan for students and pros alike.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

West Michigan and Social Media

As part of some research I'm doing, I was tracking down organizations that have organizational blogs. I used the West Michigan Business Review list of "Top 100 Companies" as a basis for my search. It's important to note that "companies" included government institutions as well as hospitals, schools and other nonprofits. Also, West Michigan meant having a presence in a 12-county region, but 28 of the 100 were multi-national corporations or other large organizations headquartered elsewhere with an office of plant in the region.

It was interesting to note that only 13 of the 100 had an organizational blog--and I had to search for those with either the on-site search bar or if they didn't have one of those an external search engine. While I was at it, I noted whether or not the organizations' Web sites offered links to some of the more popular social media features, including RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and whether they offered multi-media content, mobile options and apps, or podcasts. (While I didn't record it, a few also had links to LinkedIn, Vimeo, Delicious and other social media sites).

In a nutshell, the largest employers in West Michigan are just getting started with organizational blogs and other social media components, at least so far as they are promoted and linked to their primary Web sites. Here is a breakdown of what I found:

Org type

























































Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Citizen PR?

I was intrigued by Grand Rapids Press editor Paul Keep's Sunday column "The go-to people at The Press."

PR people in the region no doubt took note of the recent newsroom reshuffling, and in turn shuffled their own contact lists to send future news releases and pitches in the right direction.

But the column was not an inside-baseball document to PR pros. It was address directly readers as an invitation for those who "have a story to pitch or a concern to express." Certainly enterprising individuals without a PR job title have been able for some time to notice a byline, look up an address or phone number online, and pitch reporters. But this column was such an open and direct appeal that I got to wondering about the place of PR "professionals" in all of this. Just as journalists are being replaced or supplemented by citizen journalists, are PR professionals entering an era when their pitches compete with "citizen PR practitioners"? Should we envision a cacophony like that illustrated in the Ladders job search commercial when all the people jump on the tennis court?

What Paul Keep is doing is actually a response to the turmoil in journalism. Everyone knows local dailies are struggling, and part of the solution is to "engage" readers (this is also known as public relations, having two-way dialogue with your key public, a point I made to Keep last fall in a meeting when I suggested they have PR as well as journalism interns at the Press). Seeing readers as "customers"--also known as "market journalism"-- has been criticized from a big picture view because there would seem to be pressure to titillate vs inform in order to keep readers and stay financially viable. Some fear editors are as much as saying "screw the First Amendment and the noble notion of the press as an institution of democracy--we need eyeballs or we lose our jobs!" Well, the framers of the Constitution didn't have the people's right to know about the obese food offerings at Whitecaps games in mind when they made a special place for freedom of the press.

On the other hand, the role of journalism has always been to stimulate discussion and facilitate a public sphere in which citizens discuss important issues of the day. By making himself and the newsroom staff so open to readers' views, one could argue Keep is returning the Press to the historical role of journalism in democracy.

But then back to my original question. Where do PR people fit in this milieu of "the great unwashed" pitching their own stories directly to the newsroom? In some ways, journalists have always liked to hear directly from sources and citizens. If they didn't hear about it from a PR professional, they can call it "reporting," or maybe even an "enterprise" story. There is something more genuine about an average Joe calling with a story idea.

On the other hand, there's no guarantee that the common person will not be cluttering newsrooms with all manner of self-promotional, nebulous, non-newsworthy nonsense. Journalists may appreciate a professional public relations person now more than ever.

But the key is "professional." It has always been the case, but now more than ever PR people must demonstrate their merits by only pitching or releasing news that is as much or more in the public interest than their clients' or organizations' private interest. PR professionals will be valued for recognizing legitimate news, disclosing information people have a right to know, sharing information people want to know, providing access to people journalists want to interview, and explaining complex information clearly. We will be respected for advocating a point of view in the arena of public discussion, not for self-promotion and attempts to manipulate public opinion.

Just as "professional" journalists are distinct from and supplemented by citizen journalists, "professional" PR practitioners must distinguish themselves from others who seek audience via the media. Citizens are participating in their own journalism and public relations on their own blogs, Facebook notes, and tweets. For journalists and PR practitioners alike, our worth is not going to be that we can communicate, but how.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

FAQ on Ad/PR Education Program

I get asked a lot of questions, and receive a lot of unsolicited advice, about the Advertising & Public Relations program at Grand Valley State University. If I took to heart all the suggestions and sentences from professionals that begin "You should..." we would keep students here til they're 40. The fact is, our Ad/PR major is the way it is for a reason, or several reasons. I thought I would share them here. Since this is based on questions I get frequently, it is in FAQ format:

Why is Advertising/PR in the School of Communications at Grand Valley?

While some colleges around the country locate advertising and PR in a Journalism Department or a College of Business, in fact the majority of advertising and public relations programs that are complete majors are located in a communication department or school[1]. At GVSU, the Ad/PR major is appropriately located in a School of Communications along with seven other majors: Broadcasting, Communication Studies, Film/Video Production, Health Communication, Journalism, Photography, and Theatre.

Where a program is placed affects how it is taught. With the Ad/PR major in the School of Communications, the emphasis is on communications. Some might argue that people working in advertising and public relations need to have a good understanding of business and thus the major should be part of a college of business. However, many advertising and public relations professionals—including our graduates--do NOT work in businesses or exclusively with business clients. Many work in the non-profit or government sectors. For such students, additional courses in public administration or political science would make more sense, and placing public relations in a business school would in fact limit instruction to a marketing focus. Therefore, we ground our students broadly in advertising and public relations from a communications basis, and encourage them to minor or take electives in business, political science or whatever courses best suit their specific career goals.

Why Integrate Advertising and PR into One Major?

There are a variety of ways that colleges and universities structure their advertising and public relations programs. Of the 185 colleges represented in the 2008 “Where Shall I Go to Study Advertising and Public Relations” brochure, 40 have programs that integrate Advertising/Public Relations. Of those 40, 12 offer a full Advertising/Public Relations major. Others have Advertising/Public Relations as a sequence or emphasis or track as part of a more general communications or other major. Still other schools have a separate advertising major and public relations major.

Some educators are opposed to blending advertising, public relations and marketing programs because of a fear of “encroachment,” in which other disciplines change the nature and focus of what they are trying to teach. The alternate view is that integrated marketing communications (IMC) or integrated communications (IC) is a reality in the workplace and an integrated program better prepares students for their careers. [2]

At GVSU, we share both views. In our Advertising/Public Relations major, the majority of the courses the students take are the same. But they emphasize either advertising or public relations by taking a unique set of three courses. In this way they can emphasize one discipline but understand the other well enough to perform related skills or work with colleagues in an integrated communication context in their careers.

Do You Emphasize Theory or Practical Experience?

The School of Communications at GVSU stresses the integration of liberal and professional education as part of its mission for all of its majors, including Advertising/Public Relations. This integration of theoretical and practical learning experiences is important to prepare students not only with technical communication skills, but also with the ability to engage in critical thinking and to understand that their role as a professional is to contribute positively to the well-being of society. Also, we affirm that "nothing is as practical as a good theory" in the sense that theories explain and predict attitudes and behavior on the basis of generalized empirical study. Understanding theory gives experience legs.

The Advertising/Public Relations major achieves this integration in two ways. One, our faculty includes tenure-track professors who have professional experience in advertising and public relations as well as doctoral degrees. This enables them to teach from a broad theoretical and empirical perspective as well as provide the validity that comes from practice. A variety of visiting, affiliate and adjunct professors enhance the program with their varied professional experiences in different aspects of advertising and public relations work.

But we also believe, to paraphrase Sophocles, "to DO is to learn." So, the Advertising/Public Relations major gives students hands-on learning. In addition to a required internship for all students, four of our courses involve students completing projects for clients in the community. This is consistent with programs across the country, although many only engage students with real clients in the campaigns course.[3]

What is The Curriculum?

The specific courses Advertising/Public Relations majors take are consistent with what is expected by professionals and advised by educators. In fact, the GVSU Advertising/Public Relations major curriculum reflects the recommendations in the 2006 Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education.

Our curriculum is as follows:

School of Communication Core Courses (9 credits)

COM 101—Concepts of Communication

COM 295—Theories of Communication

Plus one of the following:

COM 201—Speech

COM 215—Storymaking

Advertising/Public Relations Major Core (36 credits)

CAP 105—Technology in Advertising and PR

CAP 115—Advertising/PR Research

CJR 256—Newsreporting I

CAP 210—Fundamentals of Advertising

*CAP 220—Fundamentals of Public Relations

PHI 325—Ethics in the Professions

*CAP 400—Advertising/PR Campaigns

CAP 490—Internship

Ad Emphasis must take: PR Emphasis must take:

CAP 310—Advertising Management Cases CAP 320—PR Management Cases

CAP 315—Advertising Copywriting *CAP 321—Media Relations Writing

CAP 413—Media Planning *CAP 423—Corporate Communications


COM 495—Issues in Communication

Electives (6 credits 200 level or above)

* = coursework involves work on project for real client.

Many professionals ask us if we have a course in a specific subject. We keep up with changes in the field by offering “special topics” courses and/or by incorporating social media, design, promotions, branding etc. into the pedagogy and lesson plans of the required courses.

[1] According to “Where Shall I Go to Study Advertising and Public Relations?”, a brochure/directory of U.S. programs edited and updated each year by Billy Ross, Ph.D., of Louisiana State University and Jef I. Richards, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin

[2] Larsen, Phullis V. & Len-Rios, Maria E. (2006). “Integration of Advertising and Public Relations Curricula: A 2005 Status Report of Educator Perceptions.” Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. 61(1) pp. 33-47.

[3] Benigni, Vince, Cheng, I-Hui, and Cameron, Glen T. (2004). “The Role of Clients in the Public Relations Campaigns Course.” Journalism & Mass Communications Educator. 59(3) pp.259-277.