Thursday, November 18, 2010

'PR in Practice': Sports PR

Lots of students want to go into sports PR. They think it would be fun to have a job where you are around pro athletes and get to see games for free. Well, nothing wrong with that. But as Randy Rice, PR Manager for the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team, will tell you, there's also a lot of basic PR work involved.

You need to know how to write, just like in any other PR job. And the media coverage is not automatic, even for a popular team like the Griffins. They compete with other sports, major league sports, and popular high school sports for attention in the media. So, a lot of what Randy and his co-workers do is provide their own coverage on their web site.

Learn more about a typical job in sports PR from Randy either on my YouTube channel or by viewing the video embedded below.

Remember, other videos in the 'PR in Practice' series are on my YouTube channel as well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TIME Review of 'Deadly Spin' is ... Spin

As a PR professor and practitioner, books about PR always jump out at me. But after reading a recent TIME Magazine "The Skimmer" review (subscription required) of Wendell Potter's "Deadly Spin," I nearly jumped out of my chair.

Wendell Potter used to work in public relations for insurance giant Cigna. His book is a whistleblower's account of how companies in that industry tout misleading studies, form front groups and engage in other misdeeds to deny coverage to premium-paying customers.

All of which sounds like the examples of improper practice in the PRSA Code of Ethics.

Which is why I find TIME's review so troubling for its pedestrian writing and lazy, gleeful perpetuation of bad stereotypes about the public relations professions. It leads with "Great P.R. flacks are as talented with misdirection as they are with the truth." At the end, after Potter points out that his conscience led him to testify to Congress about insurers favoring profits over patients, the review writes "there's not a p.r. person alive who can put a positive spin on that."

Again with the "spin." If the columnist, who is mercifully not given a byline for this formulaic drivel, favors truth over misdirection, he/she might have tried some actual reporting. The review then might have pointed out that the principles Potter obtained better late than never are in fact taught in most all public relations courses, based on my meeting with other educators and reviewing preferred curriculum for PR courses. More importantly, my own research shows that if an organization has a PR officer with a degree in the field and the respect of top management, ethical practice is more likely to prevail. The misdeeds of corporations are often labeled "PR" even if management ignored the counsel of a PR person, or if no one on staff had an actual degree in the field.

Rather than lean on the synecdoche of using "PR" as a blanket reference for all dishonest communication, the reviewer could have provided a great service to readers by pointing out that the PR community has praised Potter and his book more than anyone else. Potter was a keynote speaker at the PRSA annual conference last year in San Diego, which I attended with 10 students. He was also featured in an article in PRSA Tactics, the organization's monthly newspaper.

In short, rather than seeking occasion to misdirect readers that PR by definition is deceptive, the reviewer could have explained that the majority of the PR industry advocates ethical practice characterized by dialogic communication and mutual benefit. Instead, the reviewer chose to spin.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

'PR in Practice': Education PR

The next episode in the "PR in Practice" series is education PR. I interview Ron Koehler, APR, who is assistant superintendent for organizational and community initiatives at the Kent ISD. He's also the current president of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), something I wrote about in an earlier post on this blog.

One of the most interesting parts of this interview is Koehler's emphasis on research underlying all the work he does to provide communication services to 20 school districts. As part of that, he points out that treating students as stakeholders and not as passive publics is an emerging trend in this segment of the PR profession.

While the NSPRA is the organization for PR professionals in K-12, PRSA has a special section called Counselors to Higher Education for practitioners working at colleges and universities.

Enjoy the video. Again, all "PR in Practice" videos are on my YouTube channel.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

'PR in Practice': Government PR

Just in time for election day, the latest chapter in the "PR in Practice" project is out and the focus is government PR.

In this episode, I chat with Kevan Chapman, Communications Director for U.S. Congressman Vernon Ehlers. Ehlers is retiring at the end of this term--his replacement will be decided today. But the comments from Chapman about the PR role are broadly applicable to all professionals and students aspiring to have a PR job working for a politician.

Among the interesting things I learned is that many PR pros specialize on either the political campaigns or serving once in an official is in office. Some cross over, but I'm told that's rare. Also, while campaigns use polls almost constantly as part of their research and fuel for strategy, congressional offices are not allowed to do broad scientific polls beyond a feedback poll in a constituent newsletter. It has to do with time and expense for a public office. See what Kevan Chapman says they do for research and evaluation instead.

You can see the video on my YouTube channel (or click icon at right), where other videos in the 'PR in Practice' series are uploaded. Or watch it right here below: