On April 13th, Chris Davis, Director of Integrated Communication at Fi-Plan Partners spoke to Dr. Martin’s Class. Mr. Davis’s road to Fi-Plan was not one you would normally expect to see. He graduated with a degree in English and then pursued his career as a traveling musician. During his time as a musician he worked his way into owning a recording studio and an O’Henry’s Coffeehouse. He then began freelance work before landing at Fi-Plan. The focal point of his presentation was center around the question “How are people going to find you?” The answer, of course is by using proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Mr. Davis explained that their are two was to perform SEO. Black hat is SEO by manipulation. It’s randomly throwing names and keywords in your tag bars in hopes that you will land towards the top of a Google Search page. White hat is the proper way to conduct SEO. It involves actually using your keywords on your website or blog post and using them frequently. He then informed us on the top 5 things used in SEO: Keywords, Links, Changing/New Content, Video, and Image tagging. There are three kinds of links: outbound (sending someone away from your website) inbound (someone getting sent to your website from another website) and Internal (sending someone to another area of your site). Mr. Davis stated that blogging is the easiest way to stay current and that he often shoots video blogs with the camera on his iPhone. “Video is the hottest thing in SEO,” Davis said, “Google loves video.” On the subject of image tagging, he said “it is the most overlooked thing.”
On March 2nd, Meredith Foster, Project Specialist for Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama, spoke to our class. Her job is influenced heavily by social media. Her position also requires her to be a jack-of-all-trades and she does everything from graphic design to writing press releases. In her line of duty, Ms. Foster is often doing a lot of traveling between Birmingham, Bessemer, and Anniston, Alabama. Two of the programs she uses most are Indesign and Photoshop. Ms. Foster advised us to be avid readers. Some of the blogs she reads on a regular basis are Nonprofit tech 2.0, Social Media Examiner, Mashable, Social Media Today, Social Mouths, and Techcrunch. She also informed us on the ideal times to tweet and make Facebook posts (8:30, 12:30, and 4:30). “At 8:30,” she explained ” people are waiting to get on the clock at work so they’re are more than likely just killing time.” During the other ideal social media times, 12:30 and 4:30, people are surfing while they’re eating lunch, and checking their computers as soon as they get home. She the proceed to give us advice on building a portfolio. Two of the biggest things someone can do are getting published and going to professional development seminars whenever possible.
1. PR is not: 100% controllable, department whose sole purpose is to write, edit & hawk press releases, not publicity, advertising, or for bad writers. It is about: results, hits & placements; strategic function that uses research, a conversation starter and prolonger, about genuine human connections, able to outline crisis communications.
2. PR is about media relations and also public relationships. PR is about igniting conversations in a positive way.
3. PR matters more than ever because what others say about you is more important that what you say about your self.
4. Listening is more about knowing what’s going on in the world via news, blogs, radio, etc.
5. It’s more important to focus on one thing because you clearly can’t cover everything.
6. If you can’t land a hit, you can’t work in PR.
7. PR is about telling a story: know it, prove it, and have a clear call to action.
Lori demolished a lot of perceptions I previously had on PR. I learned a lot from her and am extremely thankful for her honesty and transparency in sharing with us which shows her true passion for public relations.
Stacey Hood, Marketing Director at Birmingham’s own Steward Perry Construction, was one of the most interesting speakers we had in our class this semester. He’s from Texas, has lived in Ireland, loves soccer and once had a job working on Mustangs. Yet now, he works for a construction company, writing for their blogs in addition to other tasks. He graduated from UAB, where he got his start in PR, and had lots of useful advice to give.
1. Always engage – PR is useless unless you gain and retain the attention of the customer. Don’t just toss information at them and hope it is absorbed. Like many other speakers have suggested, Hood said that PR is a dialogue. You must draw the customer in, whether through social media or more traditional media outlets, but then also cultivate that relationship to keep their attention and business.
2. Content is important – In order to engage the customer, you must have quality content. It doesn’t matter how much you have in print if it isn’t really saying anything. You have to get the message across correctly and effectively in order to keep people coming back.
3. Understand “the box” – Often we hear about thinking “outside the box.” However, Hood noted the importance of understanding the parameters of that box for any given situation. You have to know the standard rules of the game in order to step outside of the box.
4. Work on your writing – If you are not a good writer, you cannot be an effective communicator. Stacey said that we should never stop working on improving our writing skills. Whether it is through blogging or practicing press releases, there are many applicable ways to get in a little extra practice.
5. PR is an upside down funnel – Essentially there is a great wealth of information in the world, and in PR, you might want to communicate a large chunk of that information to the public. However, it must be condensed down into easily digestible and understandable bits of knowledge. An upside down funnel is the perfect example of this. We must act as the funnel, condensing necessary information down into smaller parts, so that it will engage and inform customers.
Stacey Hood of Stewart Perry in Birmingham came to speak to our “Principles of PR” class a few days ago. He explained Stewart Perry’s vision as a company to make construction sites as “green” as possible by recycling, reusing, and reducing the waste at their job sites. While Hood says he is not a “tree-hugger”, he does believe in the company’s mission and says that they are trying to be “the good guys”. He said that, at Stewart Perry, they believe in giving customers a reason to come back by touching both the heart and the mind.
Hood gave many helpful hints and good advice for students looking to go into PR:
1) Continue to work on your writing.
-The more you write, the more opportunities you will see.
2) Thing BIG.
-Get outside the box, keep learning and thinking.
-Google is your friend!
-Engagement is key.
-Hood says, “It’s the ‘good ol’ boy’ put online!”
4) Make the best of every situation.
The last and possibly most important thing that I learned from the day was not from our speaker, but from our professor Dr. Sheree Martin. As Hood was mentioning the importance of getting outside of the box, Dr. Martin said something that I had never considered.
5) “You gotta know the rules to break ’em.”
-Dr. Martin emphasized the importance of learning what the box is (that is, the rules, guidelines, and basic structure), and then moving beyond what you know so that what you do will be extraordinary.
I thought this was an interesting point that I had never heard. Most people emphasize the importance of “getting out of your comfort zone” and “going above and beyond”. And, while she agreed, she also stressed the significance of knowing what the boundaries are so that you have the ability to push the limits.
This is just what Stewart Perry has done. With innovative thinking and a passion to better the world around them, Stewart Perry is committed to doing things the right way while building repetitive customer relationships.
Stacey Hood, the unofficial director of marketing for Stewart Perry, calls himself sarcastic. Hood has 2,152 followers on Twitter. Who knew sarcasm and popularity went hand in hand? In other words, Hood has great advice on how to use social media tools, such as Twitter, for networking.
- First and foremost, GET ON TWITTER. Create a username and use it to your advantage. Where else can you meet and greet with PR professionals at the touch of your fingertips? . . . literally.
- Look for opportunities, even on Twitter. For example, InternQueen, also known as Lauren Berger, tweets available internships daily, as well as great tips to nail the job of your dreams.
- Stay updated. Hood recommends blogs. By choosing a few blogs to follow, you are learning from another perspective. Sometimes, this can even keep you informed on current events.
- Additionally, practice. Coming from a soccer coach, Hood says if you don’t use it, you will lose it. When it comes to writing, you can’t do it enough.
- “There is never a stupid question. You’re stupid for not asking it.”