The Process of Learning

This is the final topic of the week for Public Relations Fundamentals. I have to reflect on three key learnings I have taken away from this class and on how working on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights project has informed my learnings of the PR process.

The first thing I did before writing this assignment was brainstorm words and phrases I learned in this course.

Create significant relationships
Understand the meaning of two-way communication
Blogging
How to stay current — Resourceful class
Be more open to the PR world
How to see social media as another useful tool for PR
Content matters
Engagement — Create a culture from there
Empower people — Analyze the audience — Understand the audience
Listen
Simple act of sharing
RACE — Strong foundation

All of these words and phrases are connected and are part of PR. The three topics that have impacted me most are:

Social Media and Blogging

From a PR perspective, social media is important and, therefore, a big part of this class  – which I like. I learned to think of social media as a way to connect with people, to share what you need or want to say, and to learn and listen what other people need or want to share. Seth Godin’s thoughts about social media reflect my new understanding of this tool well.

“Social media is either a time-wasting, wool-gathering, yak-shaving waste of effort or, perhaps, just maybe, it’s a crack in the wall between you and the rest of the world. It’s a choice… up to you.

If you’re keeping score of how many followers you have, how many comments you get or how big your online footprint is, then you’re measuring the wrong thing and probably distracting yourself from what matters.

On the other hand, digital media can offer you a chance to make real connections, to earn permission and gain insights from people you’d never have a chance to interact with any other way.”

Through the writing assignments for our blogs, I have learned to think about our audience and how to connect with it, the importance of having content that is relevant. Engagement is part of that connection, because it shows that the conversation has begun — two-way-communication. How to engage people is the key in any campaign.

Social media and blogging need to follow a strategy that engages people while integrating with the PR campaign.

RACE Formula

RACE formula is the foundation of any campaign. RACE formula stands up for Research, Analyze, Communicate, and Evaluate. If any of these steps is skipped  when a campaign is being planned, something important will be missed. I read in the Harvard Business Review that “accomplished people reach their goals because of what they do, not just who they are.” We need to take time to research and analyze to make sure the message is understood. Furthermore, we cannot rely only on the Internet when researching. We have to contact people, ask questions, and look for answers from both primary and secondary resources. Our analysis has to be done from different angles, and we can get our best results by discussing all the findings with our team.

Listening: Empower people — Analyze the audience — Understand the audience

When developing a strategic PR campaign, always listen what your client has to say in general and, in particular, about its audience. We need to understand who the target audience is and what the target audience needs and/or wants. Listening – to stakeholders, audience, everyone – is a fundamental part of a good communication strategy. Listening allows us to engage with and connect to our audience by understanding its attitudes and behaviour. Listening as research is part of the foundation of a good PR plan.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) project

Research, Analyze, Propose, Research, Analyze, Propose…

First, you research and analyze the result, and you think that you have a good understanding of the challenge; you come up with ideas for your strategy, and you find that others are doing the same. You realize that you have not created anything really new. At this point, you feel disappointed, because you do not understand how your campaign will make a difference. So, you need to go deeper with your analysis and perhaps do more research. You ask, “What is the real purpose of the campaign?”

Be Part of a Team

Being part of a team is not easy. Each team member may have a different goal or different expectations for the project. The key to team success is to communicate effectively with one another. This includes assignments, project status, progress, results, expectations, and passion.

Pressure

There is a lot of pressure when it comes time to present your idea to a real client.  You want to be good, you want to be creative, and you want to be the best. Sometimes it helps to forget that you are dealing with a real client and instead focus on your work and your team to create a sense of community.

As a final thought, I have found an analogy between publishing and PR. What I love about publishing is that the process is the same for each project, but each project has new challenges — new authors, content, and design. PR is similar. The process (that is, fundamentals) is the same for each campaign. Each campaign, however, has new challenges — different clients, goals, audience, and tactics.

 
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The importance of Sharing and Connecting With People

This week’s blog is about a discussion I had with a public relations professional. We met and talked about a PR campaign he worked on a few years ago.

When I read first this assignment, I felt overwhelmed – I didn’t know to whom I should talk. I began researching some Winnipeg PR companies. That’s when I came across a photo on the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) website. In the photo, a former president of the society is presenting someone with an accreditation certificate. Imagine my surprise when I recognized him. He was Terry Aseltine from my yoga class. I love it when life shows me the way to follow.

I contacted Terry, explained my assignment, and he agreed to meet for a coffee at his house. Terry told me he worked in corporate communications for many years – at the City of Winnipeg, Great-West Life Assurance Company, Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. At the art gallery, his job was to make art more accessible to the public, encourage the public to become more aware of the art and programs offered by the art gallery, increase gallery membership and visitors, and provide more media coverage of gallery events. In June 2009, Terry joined the University of Manitoba where seeks out non-traditional sources of funding for university programs and projects. He is also a past National President and Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society and is accredited in public relations (APR).

Of all the campaigns and projects he has been involved in, Terry talked about a campaign he developed when he was working for the City of Winnipeg. The campaign, named the “New Deal,” was a project of former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray. Its focus was on tax shifting. Nick Ternette best describes the campaign: “The ‘New Deal’ campaign argued that taxes needed to be focused differently. The idea was to use taxes to change behaviour and get different results. The goal of the ‘New Deal’ was to cut property taxes by half, eliminate the business tax, cut bus fares by half and eliminate the amusement tax. Taxes would be shifted from property/business taxes to user taxes and fees.”

In my PR course, I learned that strategy explains “how” an objective will be achieved. It is the foundation upon which a tactical program is built. The strategy of the “New Deal” campaign was to get people involved and approve the proposed new tax system. As for the nuts-and-bolts of the plan – the tactics – the city made the following plans:

  • Hold six public consultations, or “town hall meetings.” The idea of these meetings was to present to the public the new system and explain how the public would pay the taxes. Because there was not support from the public, people were happy that the mayor held these public consultations.
  • Present media stories to TV and the press
  • Place signs about the campaign on city buses
  •  Work with city hall reporters
  • Advertise the “New Deal” in newspapers

The slogan of the campaign was: “Have a Say in What You Pay.”

The target audiences for this campaign were (a) city council, (b) business leaders, and (c) homeowners. Key messages were crafted specifically for each audience.

The campaign was developed in 2003, when electronic communication was not as usual as it is today. However, the city encouraged people to make their inquiries by email. Once or twice a week, the mayor and the PR department answered the queries by email.

Terry told me that the “New Deal” was a difficult campaign to work on. People get upset whenever tax increases are mentioned. Even when the city tried different ways to convince Winnipeggers of the fairness of this new system, it was a difficult battle. In the end, the new tax system was not approved by city council.

Although the result of the campaign, Terry commented that it was interesting to work on. The attempts to win public approval and the size of the campaign were just some of the challenges. In some ways, though, the campaign was highly successful: the public consultations attracted a lot of people who would normally not become involved in civic politics; the media gave the campaign a lot of attention (e.g., Macleans magazine), because the topic was of national interest; Glen Murray was recognized throughout the country as a very progressive mayor with new ideas. The campaign got the recognition from the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS.)

If you are interested in reading more about the “New Deal,” take a look at these two articles: Mayor seeks new deal: Murray launching drive to grab more money, power for cities, from the Winnipeg Free Press, and Riding off in all directions: An examination of Winnipeg’s New Deal written by Hugh Mackenzie and Todd Scarth from The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – MB.

I enjoyed having a coffee with Terry as we shared our experiences – mine as a PR student and his as a PR professional.

References

Mackenzie, Hugh, and Todd Scarth. Riding off in all directions: An examination of Winnipeg’s New Deal . Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-MB, 01 Feb 2003. Web. 5 Jun 2013.

“Mayor seeks new deal Murray launching drive to grab more money, power for cities.” Winnipeg Free Press [Winnipeg] 16 05 2003, n. pag. Web. 5 Jun. 2013. .