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 www.prsanebraska.org.

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.”

Be a Storyteller Through Video

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By: Kate O’Dell

In a world of instant access and ‘live’ updates, PR professionals cannot ignore the obvious; video is quickly becoming one of the main sources of information for the public.

Pete Soby, director of photography and owner of sobyVision, does not identify himself as a photojournalist, but as a story teller. While writers tell a story with pen and paper, he does it with a video camera and an editing room, he said.  Soby, a former videographer for KETV and the Omaha World-Herald, has years of experience shooting, producing and editing video.

Kurt Goetzinger, owner of Omaha Television, started his business producing high-quality videos for companies.  He spoke to the group about the growing business of video communications. “It is an exciting time to be in communications,” he says. In 2010, 60 percent of people got their news from TV. Three years ago, 43 percent of people got their news from mobile devices. Since then, with phones getting ‘smarter’ those numbers are continuing to grow.

Equipment has gotten cheaper and producing videos is now within reach. “Online viewership has exceeded television,” says Andrew Rogers, producer at Omaha Television.

“As the saying goes, a picture can say a thousand words, but for most of us PR professionals, our strength lies in words,” says Kellie Wostrel , PRSA Nebraska presiden.  “So how do we corporate video into our PR tool kit when we may not be the best photographers?”

Some advice from Soby:

  • Shoot video the same as you look at life. Meaning, do not shoot video of only one perspective, static video. While shooting, do not be afraid to scan a room, ‘look’ at different things.
  • Keep it steady. While shooting video, you are your tripod. Control your breathing. Find a way to brace yourself. Soby has wrapped himself around a tree in order to ensure he is stable. “You make look goofy, but your shot will look sweet,” he said.
  • Pay attention to details when shooting CEOs and spokespersons. Hide the microphone. Basic, but important. CEOs are the face of your company. “Make them feel like a god, make them look like a god,” Soby says.
  • Always look for something very visual. Worst video, BOPSA, Bunch of People Standing Around. It doesn’t make impactful video.

“We get to see everything as it happens, it is a front row ticket to life,” Soby says. “Have fun, it is meant to be fun.”

Managing the Crisis: Steve Wolf and Bev Carlson Talk About Crisis Communication

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By Linyu Huang

Crisis Communication has long been a popular topic in the PR field, and it’s never been more important than in today’s fast developing information age.

“We now know particularly with social media, you have seconds to be ready. The old rules used to be that if you can respond something within an hour then you are on top of the game,” says Steve Wolf, vice president of Issues Management Services. “That’s not true anymore.”

Wolf and Bev Carlson, the director of public relations for Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and immediate past president of PRSA Nebraska, shared their experience in managing the crisis at the April 2 PRSA Nebraska luncheon.

What is Crisis?
Wolf began his presentation with a Chinese word: “weiji”, which refers to crisis. In Chinese character, crisis is a word consisting of two symbols.   One stands for danger, the other stands for opportunity. Wolf interpreted it as something people anticipate could go wrong, but can probably turn into opportunities.

Crises can take many forms from natural disasters such as tornados and floods to emergency issues such as an Internet outage, shooting or terrorist attack. Carlson depicted crisis as “things keep you up at night.” Among her examples:

  • A tornado destroys office building.
  • A gunman takes an office hostage.
  • A hacker’s virus releases sensitive client information.
  • The sudden death of a CEO.
  • A massive social media attack.
  • An incidence of workplace violence.

 

Be prepared
Being prepared is a vital way to lead the information curve in a crisis instead of following it. Both Wolf and Carlson stress the importance of being prepared in a crisis. Wolf explains the public’s information needs for crisis are usually simple questions: What happened? What remains at risk? What are you doing about it? PR practitioners should always be prepared to answer these questions and build an operation plan for crisis ahead of time. Says Wolf: “96% of the types of questions you could be asked in a crisis situation, you can anticipate in advance.”

Being prepared also means promptly reacting to the incident. Don’t hesitate in responding to the media and the public. “Even if you don’t have all the answers, the fact you acknowledge you have an issue that you are contending with is the way to go,” Wolf says. Another wrong reaction would be ignoring rumors and blatant misinformation. Hesitation often leads to rumors. Failure to respond to rumors immediately might turn rumors into reality.

From an internal communication perspective, Carlson sees being prepared as recognizing, realizing, and relationship-building. Recognize what crisis really is and defuse potential issues before they blow up; realize that you may be the only one who sees the problem at first; build a relationship and gain trust from staffs at all levels of the organization.

“The most important thing that ever served me is the fact that my CEO all the way down to the person that mops the floors know they can come [to] talk to me and they can trust me,” Carlson says. “If you have an open door and people feel comfortable coming in…If you are the one they want to tell, that will immediately put you on the front line of knowing what’s going on within the organization.”

Risk Communication
Risk communication is one of the best tools Wolf encouraged PR practitioners to look into when dealing with crisis management. Wolf interpreted risk communication as a science-based approach that helps people communicate effectively in emotionally charged situations and emergencies. Risk communication encourages PR practitioners to be sensitive to how the public perceive the organization in crisis situations. The credibility that the organization built in ordinary circumstances may disappear in crisis circumstance.

 

Risk communication also advocates purposeful exchange of information about risk perceptions. Purposeful exchange means not only being out there spreading key messages, but also receiving information from the public and purposefully responding back to the audience.

A failed purposeful exchange is to hold the “we know best” attitude, which is trying to control the incident excluding the public. “This is why people get upset when you sit there and say we are in charge; we got everything under control there, and you don’t give them means to help them deal with your emergency response situation alone with you, “Wolf says. “That’s the probability of losing something.”

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 www.unoprssarc.com 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 mjromero@unomaha.edu.

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.

Media pros offer tips on pitching

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From left: Ann Pedersen, Cate Folson and Jim Reding


By Kate O’Dell

The most valuable tool a public relations professional can possess is a strong relationship with reporters and editors.  Building those relationships takes time and insight.  In order to better work with the media, it is best to understand what they are looking for from you as a PR professional.

Ann Pedersen, director of public relations for Lovgren Marketing group, was a journalist for 30 years.   When she changed career fields from TV news director to public relations director, her experience in news was a valuable asset.  She mediated a discussion with Cate Folsom, government editor at the Omaha World-Herald, and Jim Reding, director of assignments and planning at KETV Channel 7 at the October Nebraska PRSA luncheon.

During the panel, Folsom and Reding answered questions from Pedersen and from the luncheon guests.  The questions were broad from social media to pet peeves.  Below is a list of different statements made during this panel discussion.

What are reporters looking for?

“We are always looking for the human element in the story, if you can give that.” — Folsom

“The more local you are, the more interested we are.” — Folsom

“I would never turn down lists of ideas, but don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t all get picked up.” – Reding

“If I’m the only person who sees [the news release], we’re gonna miss it.” – Reding

“My dream news release says who, what, where and why.” — Reding

How should you treat reporters?

“First thing you should ask (when calling a newsroom) is: ‘Is now a good time?’” — Reding

When the media gets it wrong and reports something inaccurately, “Would you rather hear from your boss that you messed up or hear it yourself the first time?”Reding

When should you send a news release?

In a television newsroom, it doesn’t matter if you send the release months in advance.  They are working on things the day of most of the time, so be timely with your news release.

“If you come to the newsroom, you’re not going to be like, ‘Wow, I’m so impressed with how organized you are.’” – Reding

Deadlines for a newspaper are different, do not expect coverage if you send the release an hour before the event. — Folsom

What do reporters think of media kits?

“Information is excellent; trinkets are unnecessary.” – Folsom

How do reporters use social media?

“We live on Twitter, yet I’ve never Tweeted.” – Reding

While being adept and social media tools is important, Reding and Folsom both encourage PR professionals to focus on developing relationships with reporters and editors. Other tips centered on being accurate, factual and accessible.

Professionals Put Emphasis on Ethics

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September PRSA Nebraska Luncheon
By: Kristi Ashley

Two panelists at the September PRSA luncheon said being ethical means public relations professionals should be truthful and transparent.

“Ultimately, if you don’t have credibility, you don’t really have very much,” said Dr. Sherrie Wilson, associate professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication.

Matthew Ellis, vice president and general counsel of Woodman of the World, agreed.  Ethics is not black and white, but professionals must strive to be truthful and credible, he says.

Attendees discussed a case study in which a housing development was built on a former landfill with low levels of contaminants still present.  Assuming the role of the public relations director for the housing company, each person had to consider how to handle a boss who wants to keep this information from the public.

On one hand, being honest and respecting the public’s right to know are your responsibilities as a public relations professional.  And you should be concerned if there’s even a small chance someone could be harmed, Wilson says.  “But on the other hand, you have the economic concern of your company.”

Audience members chimed in, too, pointing out it is the public relations director’s job to anticipate what could happen and then plan what to say and do.  The media will likely find out anyway, and it is better to be straightforward.

A couple of actions to consider in this situation are to look for positives and find comparison projects to use as examples, according to the panelists.  Also, consider what you would want to know, as a citizen.

Public relations specialists must stress ethics.  “It’s so much a part of what we do in this profession,” Wilson says.

An excellent resource for any ethical concern is the PRSA Code of Ethics.  A few of the professional guidelines include:

  • Honesty: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
  • Disclosure of information: Build trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision making.
  • Enhancing the profession: Build respect and credibility with the public for the profession of public relations.

The code of ethics is available online at http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics.

 

Twelve Steps Closer to Necessity

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July Luncheon  7/10/12
Presenter: Bob Kula, Vice President of Corporate Communication at Kiewit Corporation
By Kate O’Dell

“Are you a nice to have or a need to have?” asked Bob Kula, vice president of corporate communication at Kiewit Corporation, at the July monthly luncheon.  This was the question that drove the presentation of “12 Steps: Rethinking the Traditional Communication Model.”

The scenario:  Your boss comes into your office on a typical day and gives you two minutes to explain why you are a valuable part of your company.  How is your work making the company gain financially?  Ideally, this answer should come to you readily, but are you prepared to answer that question? 

Kula’s 12 steps help define the reasons communications positions can be financially beneficial to the bottom line. 

“Communications breakdowns cause people and organizations to underperform each day,” Kula says. 

Kula presented different communication models that illustrated how easily communication within a company can get off track.  These representations showed the importance of a communications specialist. He also detailed which stages of communication between employees, managers and the product outcome, that an error can be made and ultimately affect the final product. By recognizing these spots of weak communication and having the ability to implement a system to remedy these mistakes, communications experts can prove their most value. 

Kula also warned of the importance of not falling into the typical daily grind of communications positions.   Although the daily tasks of your job must be tended to, it is important not to completely fill your time strictly writing memos, keeping calendars and other basic functions that can be the totality of the job. 

The expertise of how people communicate and make improvements to create more also adds to the value of the communications specialist.  Kula outlined the steps of good practice for a communications expert to fully approach company improvement.

The 12 steps presented:

  1. Take stock of your organization
  2. Go where the data tells you to go
  3. Define what it takes to be a leader
  4. Create your business case
  5. Build a communication structure that works
  6. Give people the score so they know what it takes to win
  7. Ensure what gets measured gets done
  8. Make sure your incentives are incenting
  9. Recognize to drive better performance
  10. Recruit people who fit well into your organization
  11. Give new employees the best chance to win
  12. Train to get results

If implemented well and actively evaluated, these steps can make a measurable difference in company performance.  In Kula’s examples, the breakdown of communication regarding safety incentives kept the company spending money on safety violations.  By evaluating the company policies and recognizing the lack of valuable incentives for employees in the safety policy, he was able to clue in the company on a fairly simple fix to their safety expenses.  By offering employees individual motivations to better adhere to the standards of safety, the company reported less accidents and ultimately saved money. 

This is of course just one example of several regarding how a lack of communication can cost an organization.

It is paramount to survival of the communications experts in companies during times of budget cuts and company audits that we are able to show our worth, Kula says.  As communications professionals, it is vital we continue to provide our employers with the facts about exactly what makes our positions valuable.

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