Building Your Brand with Public Relations

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Building Your Brand with Public Relations
Lynette Von Minden
Senior Public Relations Counsel
Swanson Russell

Here’s a little exercise for you. Name some of the world’s most popular brands.

OK, which ones immediately came to mind? Maybe Coke or Apple? McDonald’s? Walmart? Google?

While these companies may make building a branding look easy, it’s not. Brands are the basis of an organization’s emotional and psychological relationship with its customers. It’s likely that hundreds of people participated in many meetings and discussions about the look, feel and overall personality each of these companies should communicate. And coming to an agreement on a brand is only the beginning. Then you have to build it and nurture it, which takes time, consistency and dedication.

If you asked most people how companies build brands, they’d probably mention the ads they see in print and online, or the commercials they hear on the radio or see on TV. A few might also mention product packaging, merchandising displays or websites. While it’s true that all those elements of the marketing mix help build a brand, public relations also has a tremendous impact upon brand perceptions.

In the past, PR—like advertising—primarily consisted of one-way messages from an organization to its customers. In other words, PR professionals told people what they wanted them to hear without offering them a way to respond or provide input. Today, customers have the power to let us—and just about everyone else in the world—know how they feel about our brand, our products and our services each and every day.

As a result, PR has had to evolve. It’s no longer just about developing relationships with the media, but also with actual customers. It’s about listening, responding appropriately and delivering on brand promises that customers find emotionally relevant. It’s about developing a reputation and a personality with which your customers can identify. That’s why PR has become so integral to the brand-building process—not just for multi-billion-dollar corporations, but for even the smallest businesses. Consider the following PR strategies and tactics that can help any organization develop and nurture its brand:

  • Become involved with relevant events and sponsorships.
  • Craft social media messages that speak to your audience’s preferences, needs and desires.
  • Train your company executives how to properly “work in” your company’s brand message during interviews and speaking engagements.
  • Develop story pitches and bylined editorial pieces that support your brand message.
  • Remember to back up your brand in both external and internal communications.

PR isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to building a brand. It’s just one tool of many in the marketing toolbox. However, when it’s done well, PR is quite possibly the most subtle, yet effective way to nurture and communicate a brand image. The key is to work a consistent brand message into all aspects of your communications mix—and back it up with your actions.

Media Relations Summit Presentations Now Available!

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The presentations from the Media Relations Summit are now available.

Thank you to our presenters:
Laurie Armstrong, director, Media Relations, US & Canada for the San Francisco Travel Association

View presentation.

Jeff Hanson, manager, Communication Strategy and Technology, Corporate Marketing and Communications at OPPD

View presentation.

MaverickPR asks Nebraska PRSA members to sponsor a YES backpack

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MaverickPR, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s PRSSA chapter is seeking help from Nebraska PRSA to fill 100 backpacks with clothing and hygiene supplies to Youth Emergency Services (YES), a local nonprofit that serves homeless and at-risk youth.

For only $35, PRSA members or their companies can sponsor a backpack in the “Say YES: Give Back with a Pack” drive that runs throughout the month of November.

The UNO’s PRSSA chapter has purchased 100 backpacks through its own fundraising but needs more assistance to fill them with such items as packages of socks and underwear, gloves or mittens, body wash, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, tooth brushes and first aid items. Checks should be made out to UNO-PRSSA and mailed in care of
Karen Weber, PRSSA faculty adviser at Room 140, Arts and Sciences Hall, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68182-0112.

For more than 35 years YES has served struggling youth, ages 12 to 21 in Omaha and Council Bluffs, by providing critically needed resources that empower them to become self-sufficient. YES served more than 800 homeless and at-risk youth in 2010-11 alone through shelter and advocacy programs.

Please contact Angela Eastep, PRSSA service director, for more information at

James W. Leuschen Fellowship Award: Developing the Professional Within.

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The PRSA Nebraska Foundation is seeking applicants for the James W. Leuschen Fellowship. The $500 award is available annually to a public relations practitioner who is working to earn an educational degree or seeking additional training or coursework in public relations and related fields. Application deadline is Nov. 1, 2013.

The Fellowship is named in memory of James W. Leuschen, APR, a long-time PRSA Nebraska member and past president, to recognize his career of excellence in the practice of public relations and for his exemplary service to his profession and to the community.

Application Process
To be considered for the Fellowship, a candidate must send a letter of application, indicating interest and that he/she meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Pursuing a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in public relations, Communications or a related field at an accredited college or university.
  • Pursuing education full-time and temporarily not working in the public relations field. Candidates must have a strong commitment to return to public relations practice once their academic program is completed.
  • or seeking additional skills or pursuing training or academic coursework in related fields.

A candidate does not have to be enrolled in a specific academic program. Preference will be given to a practicing public relations professional who is a member of The Nebraska Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and intends to remain in the area served by the Chapter.

Letters of application may be mailed to:
Public Relations Society of America Nebraska Chapter
PRSA Nebraska Foundation
PO Box 24133
Omaha NE 68124

The Fellowship Committee, consisting of the President of the PRSA Nebraska Foundation and two Foundation Trustees, will review the application letters and make a recommendation for approval by the PRSA Nebraska Foundation Board of Trustees.

The award recipient is named at the Paper Anvil Awards Gala in December.

The PRSA Nebraska Foundation receives charitable gifts to further the profession, primarily by supporting public relations education through professional development programs and PRSSA scholarships. Members can become involved in the PRSA Nebraska Foundation through:

  • Personal or corporate gifts to the foundation.
  • Working on its behalf.
  • Discussing the foundation as part of an estate plan.

For more information, contact:
Davina Leezer, PRSA Nebraska President-Elect

UNO PRSSA Holds Tenth Annual “La Notte Italiana” Benefit Dinner

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Say arrivederci (goodbye) to a plain dinner and spice up your night with MaverickPR, the UNO chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), for the 10th annual “La Notte Italiana” (Italian Night) fundraiser.

This year’s benefit dinner takes place on Friday, Sept. 20, 6:30-8 p.m., at St. Margaret Mary’s Suneg Center, 6116 Dodge Street, across from the UNO campus. The event features authentic Italian cuisine from some of the best restaurants in Omaha as well as family recipes. In addition, the chapter will hold a silent auction featuring spa to sports packages. All proceeds help the chapter pay for student travel, competitions, campus and community service projects and special events.

The fundraiser comes just over a month before the PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia Oct. 25-29, in which 10 members and their faculty adviser represent UNO. The team has worked year-round to prepare for the five days of professional development, competition and networking. In 2012, UNO earned Outstanding PRSSA Chapter for the second time in four years. PRSSA is a national pre-professional organization for students interested in public relations with 300 chapters nationwide.

Tickets cost $20 for adults, $12 for students with ID and $5 for children under 12. They may be purchased or reserved through Karen Weber, PRSSA faculty adviser, at (402) 554-2246 or through Thursday, Sept. 19. Tickets are also available at the door.
MaverickPR, the University of Nebraska at Omaha chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA), offers students interested in public relations opportunities in professional development and community and university service. One of the most active student organizations on campus, the UNO Student Organizations Leadership and Programming (SOLP) named PRSSA its Outstanding Student Organization in 2010-2011. UNO PRSSA also earned the F. H. Teahan National PRSSA Award for Outstanding Chapter in 2012 and 2009, and Outstanding University Service in 2010.

PRSA Members Share Best Practices Through Networking

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By Anna Backhaus

Networking is a vital part of public relations. With social media and online platforms connecting with individuals, organizations and events it is easier than ever before. With the change of tide come new questions, new ideas and new ethical responsibilities.

Will Ackerman, PRSA Nebraska Ethics chair and communications director for the Nebraska-Western Iowa Veteran’s Administration, shared the new PRSA Ethics App that can be downloaded from the Play store on androids and the App Store on iPhones. The app features professional values, ethics quiz, posts and case studies.

Instead of the traditional speaker or panel, the format for this luncheon meeting was more interactive. Each table discussed different topics involving best practices in PR provided in a networking packet.  One topics of interest was buzz words that get over used in news releases. Kelli Wostrel, APR, PRSA Nebraska president and public relations counsel for Swanson Russell, says her company would have everyone get together say all the words they wanted to say but shouldn’t and then write a news release. Such words include leader, fastest, innovative and revolutionary.

Our group also discussed when it’s appropriate to contact reporters or editors on Twitter and other social media platforms. The majority thought that as long as the person being contacted preferred this method then it isn’t a problem. It’s always courteous to contact others by way that is most convenient to them, so never hesitate to ask.

Another ethical topic that prompted debate was whether or not to write quotations for your organization’s CEOs president or administrator. Davina Leezer, PRSA Nebraska vice president and marketing manager for Mosaic, says she has worked in her position long enough to be able to write in the voice of the person who would be quoted. She always gets the quotes approved before sending the news release. Karen Weber, UNO PRSSA faculty adviser, says, as a former news reporter, she would still prefer quotes that come directly from the source.

Nebraska PRSA also honored four PRSSA members with $500 scholarships. Winners are Kassaundra Hartley, Spalding, Neb. of Creighton University; Benjamin Preston, Omaha, of the  University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Megan Romero, Omaha, of the University of Nebraska Omaha; and Britni Waller, Lincoln, Neb., of the University of South Dakota.


PRSA Midwest District Conference

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In just two short weeks, the PRSA Nebraska chapter will host the Midwest District Conference from July 25-26 at the Embassy Suites in Omaha, Nebraska. More than 15 chapters across the Midwest, 160 public relations professionals and nearly 30 speakers will join together for two days of professional development and networking opportunities. The conference theme, “Defining the Expanding Role of Public Relations,” will dive deep into the many industry topics and trends that PR professionals wonder about and get excited about most. The goal of the conference is to provide PR practitioners with tools and strategies that they can use in their day to day professional lives.

The conference would not have been successful without the support of the more than 15 Midwest District Conference sponsors. We very much appreciate our sponsors and their cash and in-kind donations.

Our keynote speaker, PRSA National Chairman and CEO, Mickey Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA and Managing Partner of Ogilvy in Atlanta, will kick-off our Midwest District Conference with a presentation on story-telling, media relations and reputation. The two day program will then move forward with a variety of experienced PR pros presenting on a variety of topics that cover social media, media relations, internal communications, SEO, content marketing, integrated marketing, crisis communications, strategy development and much, much more!

We will also have some very special guests – members from the Nigerian Public Relations Delegation will be joining us in our great city for two days of networking and educational programming. A big thank you to Chika Idahah-Allison for leading the delegation to our Midwest District Conference. We are honored to have their presence in our great city!

I also want to thank the PRSA Nebraska board of directors and the Midwest District committees for their hard work and dedication over the past year. A very special and heart-felt thanks goes to Davina Leezer and Heather Tweedy, who are our Midwest District Conference Co-Chairs. Their hard work and dedication over the last year ensured that this conference would be a success, and I’m forever grateful for their leadership.

Anyone who has ever coordinated an event, big or small, knows that it takes an army for it to be a success. PRSA Nebraska is so fortunate to have an amazing network of communicators, a strong conference planning committee and a stellar board of directors who have all worked in unison to make this conference a realization. The PRSA Midwest District Conference is a direct reflection of how strong PRSA Nebraska is as a chapter – and I’m so proud to be a part of such an amazing team.

Kellie Wostrel, APR
PRSA Nebraska President

PRSA Nebraska Awards $2,000 in Scholarships To Students at Nebraska and South Dakota Universities

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PRSA Nebraska, the Nebraska chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), is awarding $500 scholarships to four students at Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chartered affiliate chapters in Nebraska and South Dakota.

The $500 scholarships recipients are:
Kassaundra Hartley, Spalding, Neb., Creighton University
Benjamin Preston, Omaha, Neb., University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Megan Romero, Omaha, Neb., University of Nebraska Omaha
Britni Waller, Lincoln, Neb., University of South Dakota

“We are proud of these talented students who have decided to pursue a career in public relations and communications,” said Kellie Wostrel, APR, president of PRSA Nebraska. “These students have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their commitment to the public relations profession.”

PRSA Nebraska awards $2,000 annually — four $500 scholarships each — to PRSSA students. The students are juniors, seniors or graduate students who attend school full-time and are current members of PRSSA. Students who apply for the scholarship must plan to pursue a career in public relations or communications.  Faculty advisers at each university recommend candidates for approval by the PRSA Nebraska Board of Directors.

“We are fortunate to have strong PRSSA affiliates,” said Wostrel. “The PRSA Nebraska chapter prides itself in engaging our next generation of communicators through professional development and mentoring support. Our PRSSA students have the opportunity to learn more about the profession and network with other Midwest public relations professionals in the field.”

About PRSA Nebraska
PRSA Nebraska is an affiliate of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the nation’s largest community of public relations and communications professionals. More than 185 professionals are members of PRSA Nebraska and represent corporate, agency, nonprofit and government organizations throughout Nebraska. PRSA sets standards of excellence and uphold principles of ethics for the global public relations profession. More information is available at

A Refreshed Brand Can Build Consumer Confidence

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By Linyu Huang

With fast changes every day such as industry development, government regulation changes, corporation merge and acquisition, etc. updating brand is crucial to reengaging the current customers and attracting new ones. Sometimes branding just needs refreshing, while sometimes it needs a bit of a jolt. Even a strong brand must stay relevant to survive.

Kathy Broniecki, partner and chief strategy officer with Envoy and Andy Williams, director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska shared their brand cases at the May PRSA Nebraska luncheon. Broniecki talked about the agency’s re-branding experience with Roberts Dairy and Hiland Dairy. Williams discussed the process of refreshing a 40-year-old brand, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, to meet the needs of and appeal to today’s health insurance consumer.
Why Change?
Broniecki’s agency Envoy has worked with Robert Dairy for more than 25 years. In 1981, Prairie Farms purchased Roberts Dairy and Hiland Dairy Two years ago, Hiland Dairy acquired Roberts Dairy. The two different brands of dairy operated in 11 state market areas with two different websites, consumer campaigns, and brand marketing budgets. In order to create a strong, unified brand across the Midwest and to save on product labeling and marketing costs, Roberts Dairy was renamed to Hiland Dairy.

In the case of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, the company had already built one of the most recognized and respected brands in the country. The challenge came when the health insurance industry changed with federal health care law. Blue Cross and Blue Shield had been primarily a business to business company insured through employers. A major shift occurred when more individuals began to buy their own health insurance. To meet consumers’ needs, Blue Cross Blue Shield adjusted its marks, logo, and market strategies to become a more direct consumer company.


How to Change?
In Broniecki’s case, the team changed the name on the logo but kept it looking similar to the previous one to be recognizable for customers. They also unified the websites and planned consumer campaign. The vital part is to reach the consumers and deliver the message. The key message is that the only change was the name on the package. The Hiland Dairy would continue to provide fresh hometown dairy with no antibiotics or artificial growth hormones, Broniecki explains. The team used traditional, digital and social media in creating an interactive campaign to deliver the message.

In Williams’ case, the team simplified the logo to a blue cross, a blue shield and capitalized Nebraska to show it as a brand for everyone in Nebraska not just for employees. “Nowadays, people don’t read, especially on the Internet, they scan,” Williams says. “We have to grasp their eyes in three seconds.” The team also adjusted the marketing strategy from general brand promotion to direct consumer promotion. Unlike Broniecki’s case, they applied the new logo directly without any advertisement because it was a small shift and the brand was already well known.


Employees Are the Ambassadors
In both Broniecki and Williams’ cases, they involved employees as part of the re-branding process. Employees are one of the most challenging parts of Broniecki’s case. “Long term employees really had a difficult time with it, Broniecki says. The team developed a PR plan for employees to accept the new name by telling them the change will not affect their job and would probably improve the work.

Williams worked with employees to test 10 different logos and educated them the re-branding reasons and processes. “They are the best ambassadors to reach their friends, families, people they know,” Williams says. “They need to present themselves differently after the change.”

UNO Holds “Big Biz in the Big O” PR Conference

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Members of Nebraska PRSA are invited to join students and learn more about such topics as digital media, branding and event planning  at “Big Biz in the Big O,” Regional Conference April 12-14,  at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Hosted by MaverickPR, the UNO Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, the conference also features sessions on agency PR, entrepreneurial PR and corporate social responsibility

The chapter has invited more than 100 students from universities in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and South Dakota. All events are held at Mammel Hall in the College of Business Administration on the south campus.

The conference opens Friday, April 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. with a “Viva la Omaha” social and presentation by Phil Gomes, senior vice president of Edelman Digital in Chicago,

Sessions begin on Saturday, April 13, at 9:30 a.m. One session features a panel of agency professionals from Swanson Russell, Bozell, Bailey Lauerman and Emspace Group.  Another session features branding presented by representatives from ConAgra Foods and Kiewit Corp. The event planning session includes presenters from the Omaha Sports Commission and Omaha Fashion Week.

The conference closes on Sunday, April 14, at 9:30 a.m. with portfolio do’s and don’ts, and a keynote speech on leadership by Dr. Tim McMahon, president of McMahon Marketing and a Creighton University associate professor, who teaches leadership, marketing and social media in the College of Business.

“Our team chose the theme, ‘Big Biz in the Big O’ because of Omaha’s wealth of public relations and communications professionals from major agencies and Fortune 500 companies,” said Karen Weber, UNO PRSSA faculty adviser. “Students and professionals can learn best practices from each other during the interactive sessions and through numerous networking opportunities at this conference.”

The cost to attend the three-day conference is only $35 for PRSA Nebraska members until the day of the conference. The registration fee includes the Friday night reception, continental breakfast on Saturday and Sunday and a box lunch on Saturday.

To register, visit or the UNO PRSSA regional conference page on Facebook. Checks should be mailed in care of Karen Weber, UNO PRSSA Faculty Adviser, Arts & Sciences Hall, Room 140, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 6001 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68182-0112

For more information, contact: Megan Romero, chapter president at (402) 880-9485 or e-mail

MaverickPR, the University of Nebraska at Omaha chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA), offers students interested in public relations opportunities in professional development and community and university service. One of the most active student organizations on campus, UNO PRSSA earned the F. H. Teahan National PRSSA Award for Outstanding Chapter in 2012 and 2009 and Outstanding University Service in 2010.

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