Luckie advice from a PR pro

My Principles of Public Relations class at Samford University was luckie enough to have a guest speaker on Friday, February 4th. Lori Merricks, an Account Director for Luckie & Co. spoke to us about her work in the media field.  She has been working for Luckie full-time since her graduation in 2000 after she interned there during her time at Samford.

Luckie & Co.

Luckie is located in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was founded by Robert “Ace” Luckie Jr.in 1953.  Luckie is still privately owned and family run by Ace’s two sons, Bob III and Tommy. Lori says this creates a great atmosphere in which to work.

Luckie is the 5th ranked ad agency-owned PR operation in the United States.  With only 122 employees, it is considered a small PR firm.

Some of their clients include: AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Express Oil Change, Gulf Power, Little Debbie, and many more.

You may remember one of their greatest achievements: ads for South Central Bell (which became AT&T) including Alabama’s legandary football coach, Bear Bryant. “Have you called your momma today?”

Lori mentioned something very interesting Luckie is able to do.  They can compare costs for what they do versus another option with the same outcome.  This creates accountability and gives the client confidence in their PR firm.

For example, getting an article to run in a newspaper and the cost the company would have been charged for placing an ad in the same paper.

Advice From a Professional

One thing Lori stressed to our class was to be aware of what your image is online and everywhere else.  She said, “You are your own brand.” Be aware of what is on your Facebook and your privacy settings, be careful what you tweet on Twitter.  Her advice, “Don’t put anything [online] you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.”

This is very important to keep in mind as many of us near our graduation and begin job searching.

She also mentioned the importance of working (mainly interning) in several different fields of media.  As a public relations agent, part of your job is to get your client in the media. Therefore, understanding those gateways is critical since toy then have a better chance of doing this successfully.

For example, Lori said you never want to pitch an idea to a newspaper on a Friday. Think about it… It makes perfect sense.  The weekend newspaper is already planned out.

Ins & Outs when it comes to brands

Most of us know that to work with a client, you must understand every aspect of the product, company, competition, and everything else associated with the client.

Lori discussed several aspects of approaches for PR when looking from the brand point of view.  She mentioned you must be aware of the consumers, trends, influencers, and competitors of the brand.

Brand marketing is important to target prospective buyers and create loyalty with customers.   This deals with emotions more than anything.

Brand alliance is two brands working together to promote themselves.  This involves some creativity.  Do you always use another “partner” product with a certain other product?

The newest example of this is Band-Aid and Neosporin with the new “always squeeze then stick” ads.

Brand protection is a little different and normally more stressful. Crisis management is a large part of PR.

Lori mentioned something that I had never thought of or heard before. There are sudden crises, the oil spill for example, and also smoldering crises. They have been building up, they’ve always been there, then they explode.  This is like the recent Taco Bell lawsuits in Alabama.  Did people think they were paying 89 cents for all beef? (Maybe)

Timing is key, after everything else is taken care of

When creating a message, Lori told us there are many aspects to take into account, timing being most important.

There are several steps to create an effective campaign. You first must have a purpose, create your message, adapt it to each audience involved, and communicate it through the right channel.

Research is first.  You must know your product inside and out, the right audiences, the correct journalist to contact, the right strategies to take, and how to effectively execute. By researching you can find this out.

Next, strategic planning. How are you going to do what you need to? Being organized and making a plan will make sure things are done effectively.

Some don’t think public relations involves writing. I hope you know what you’re getting into if you think that. Lori says writing is the next step and a big one at that.

(Good book suggestion: Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.)

In this age, social media is one of the largest outlets for PR.  Every brand, product, and more are on Facebook, Twitter, and most have a blog.  Having an internet presence and watching what is said about your client is key (& a step).

Research should always be first, others happen at the same time and overlap in order to be effective.

Ethics & PR: know where you draw the line

Lori used this quote when discussing ethics and I found no better way to describe the importance of ethics within PR.

PR means telling the truth and working ethically – even when what the media want is headlines and what the public wants is scapegoatsPublic relations fails when there is no integrity.” – Viv Segal

Public relations specialists have a bad reputation to a lot of people. Spin doctors? Knowing that ethics is a big part of PR is important. Each individual must know their personal limits when it comes to this topic.

Thank you Lori for all of the advice and information! I am excited and can’t wait to enter this field of work.

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