PR- From Praticer to Practitioner

One week. The final presentations are one week from today for the students of LSU Manship School of Mass Communication PR Campaigns class. Each team must condense ALL of the work they have done this semester into one campaign summation and evaluation book and one 15 minute presentation. The worst part of it all is that graduation is on May 18, which makes getting work done so much harder considering senioritis has kicked into full gear.

Right now 6+ Solutions, my PR group is in the process of completing and compiling all of our materials and plans for our campaign this semester with GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship in Baton Rouge. To say the very least, this has been an extremely trying semester with many obstacles and challenges coming at us every day. Luckily enough, the “real world” is not picture perfect, so we can count this campaign as practice for when we graduate.

As you know through reading this blog all semester, my group has developed and delivered an awareness and fundraising campaign for GaitWay. We focused on raising awareness through traditional and interactive media, and we had a series of fundraising dinners throughout April. We have been working non-stop all semester, and it is really hard to believe that not only is this campaign almost over, but so is my college career.

6+ Solutions at our final fundraising dinner. I am so happy to have been lucky enough to work with such a great group!

One important thing about this class is simply that- it’s just a class. While it is the most important class in the PR track for LSU Mass Communication, it, unfortunately, is not the only thing in my life. I am an involved student on campus, holding leadership positions in Omicron Delta Kappa, the LSU Ambassador Team and LSU Zeta Tau Alpha, as well as a graduating senior, so this final semester of college has been insane.

The key to being able to successfully transition between student and professional is to stay proactive in all facets of your life: school, on-campus involvement and resume-building. This semester has been full of class work and leadership responsibilities as well as applying and interviewing for jobs. The entire job searching process is an exhausting process filled with rejection. I would like to meet a person that found his post-college job on the first try because I swear until searching for jobs, I had not had to deal with that level of rejection since trying to find a date to my high school winter formal ( I went to an all-girls school, so it was up to us to find dates).

I digress.

My point is that just doing classes is not enough. Successful students stay involved on campus and are always working to mkae their resumes the best they can be. Also, persistence is key. Like I said, it all doesn’t come on the first try. I, for example, was rejected from 11 different job positions before I was offered the job I accepted post-graduation. Here is where I brag, but I just have to tell you that I was recently named the Associate Director of Communication for Catholic High School here in Baton Rouge. I genuinely could not be more excited!

In my first blog post, I mentioned that we students should be called PR “practicers” because “practitioners” was too far a stretch. Well now it is that time- come May 18, my fellow students and I will officially become PR practitioners. I am happy to say that I am ready for that step, and I look forward to many years as a practitioners.

To keep up with me as I grow as a PR practitioner, be sure to keep in touch with me through LinkedIn! To follow GaitWay as someone else continues its PR efforts, check them out on Facebook!

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GaitWay PR- taking action to get reactions

The fact that today is March 29, 2012 and that Sunday marks the first day of April is blowing my mind. When our professor handed out the LSU Mass Communication 4005 rubrics in January, the end of the semester, which is currently poking its head around the corner, seemed so far away. Each student’s digital portfolio is due May 1, and each groups campaign book and presentation are due on May 3. The due dates of the first and third of May seemed completely doable, that is, until this semester decided to fly by!

This past Tuesday, 6+ Solutions met as a group with our professor, Dr. Jensen Moore-Copple, to discuss the progress of our campaign and give her a general update on our group work. We were surprised when she told us that we need to start slowing the campaign down and begin the evaluation process. What? Evaluate? That happens at the end of this journey! We cannot be that close to the end of our semester, and college careers, for that matter! Sadly enough, it truly is that time.

Now that I have finally taken the first step and accepted that the end of the semester is rapidly approaching, it is time to follow the doctor’s orders: slow down and evaluate. As a team, we informed the GaitWay board members that we would start evaluating and slow down on our campaign. We turned in our final pieces and are now going to begin the evaluation process.

As strategic director, this means evaluating our traditional and social media outreach. One helpful thing I learned to do when I was Public Relations director for the LSU Chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha is to keep a running excel spreadsheet of all media mentions. It is also a great idea to do ad equivalencies for each media mention. This way not only are you able to show your client how many times they have gotten attention, but you are also able to show them how much money they would have had to pay for an ad in the same publication or on the same channel. I have done this for GaitWay, which is making the evaluation process really easy for our traditional media outreach.

One of our mentions in the March edition of InRegister.

Evaluating social media is also pretty simple, and it really helps you appreciate how many people you can reach through Twitter and Facebook. A great thing about Facebook is that it offers administers of a fan page to see insights of their page. These insights show the number of likes, comments, mentions and general interaction and outreach over a period of time. Facebook is even so wonderful that it offers the option to export the insights into an excel spreadsheet that can be printed and presented to the client. This option Facebook grants saves a lot of time in tracking all interactions on Facebook, and it catches so many things that I probably would not if I tried to manually track our outreach.

Here is a photo of what one of the Facebook insight options looks like. They are so helpful when evaluating the success of your Facebook communication plan!

To keep up with GaitWay through the little that is remaining of this semester and after, be sure to “like” them on Facebook and “follow” them on Twitter! To keep up with me during this semester and after graduation, check me out on Facebook and LinkedIn!

GaitWay opens a new gate, takes a big step

We did it!

Last Wednesday, March 7, GaitWay ceremoniously opened its new site on Hoo Shoo Too Rd! Since our first meeting with Shelley and the board, we have been working as a team to prepare for this ribbon cutting ceremony. It all started at CC’s Coffee House that first meeting when my teammates and I presented the idea to Shelley and two of her board members. The whole idea seemed so far away and glamorous, but it quickly snuck up on us and became reality.

The planning process was one of collaboration between the practicality of 6+ Solutions members and grandiose ideas of the GaitWay board members. We were able to meet in the middle and plan a great ceremony. We organized an intimate celebration focusing solely on the clients, volunteers and board members of GaitWay. Lance, our design director, constructed a PDF invitation that we could imbed in an email and send out. We gathered a list from Shelley of all the patients, volunteers and board members and sent out the ceremony invitation via email.

Our wonderful invitation for the event

After inviting the desired guests, we made sure to construct a press release that we send to the local media stations so that they could come cover the event. We want word to spread about GaitWay as far and wide as we possibly can.

The morning of the event, we arrived early and help the board members set up the area to look presentable for the ceremony and the guests. The board members had spent the weekend before cleaning, landscaping and painting the barn to make sure it looked its best for the ceremony and the lessons that would continue thereafter. The area looked beautiful with a center location for the ribbon cutting itself and a socialization area with food provided by Bayou Boys Gourmet and refreshments.

Wonderful food by Ryan from Bayou Boys Gourmet

As guests started to arrive, they did not hesitate to start “ooh” ing and “ahh”ing at the new location and congratulating Shelley on this great accomplishment. As a team, we were all so thrilled at the outcome. We had set a goal for 40 guests to be in attendance, and 52 showed up, including Mayor Melvin “Kip” Holden and State Representative Franklin Foil. A reporter from WAFB Channel 9 even showed up and produced a great news piece on the event.

The ceremony was beautiful. Holly spoke on behalf of the board and introduced Shelley, who thanked everyone for coming and spoke about what GaitWay has done for her. The board, Mayor Holden and State Representative Foil joined Shelley to cut the ribbon together. It was a wonderful ceremony, and none of us could have been happier!

Shelley, the board, the mayor and state representative cutting the ribbon!

For more on GaitWay Thereapeutic Horsemanship, please “like” them on Facebook or follow them on twitter. For more on me throughout my PR journey, check out Facebook and LinkedIn!

6+ and Shelley!

PR- PRactice, PRoblems and PeRsistence

OK, so using PeRsistence in that series of words starting with “PR” was a bit out of place, but it is the truth- when implementing PR PRactices, there are going to be PRoblems, and you are going to have to be very PeRsistent. I really wanted to fit “patience” in there somewhere, but unfortunately, it has no “R.”

I digress.

The past few weeks have been quite a roller coaster working to get GaitWay’s PR on a roll. We have had some good times and some not so PeRfect times (OK, OK- I will stop doing the cheesy capitalization of “P” and “R”).

PRactice

6+ Solutions’ main goal in this phase is to fully plan and implement the ribbon cutting ceremony for GaitWay’s new location. They will continue to do a few lessons at the Port Allen location; however, to make it easier for both the clients and Shelley Rose, the therapist and executive director of GaitWay, the organization will start to hold lessons in East Baton Rouge. The new site is on Hoo Shoo Too Rd off Highland Rd, behind Blue Bayou Waterpark/ Dixie Landin’ Amusement Park.

As a team, we are really excited about the idea of a new location because it means we get to plan an opening ceremony. We have planned a ribbon cutting ceremony to take place on Wednesday, March 7 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony will be intimate, focusing just on the clients of GaitWay and GaitWay’s board members. With the help of some connections board members have, we have secured coverage from The Advocate and City Social. Even East Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden will be at the event. Plans are going really well, and we are ready for this event to happen!

PRoblems

As I mentioned last post, GaitWay already has some pre-existing social media accounts to which I cannot gain administration powers. This is a bit frustrating because ideally, our GaitWay social media campaign would already be kicked into full gear. Instead, I am trying, completely unsuccessfully, to contact the current account administrators and ask for permission to take over social media.

Along with the social media, GaitWay’s website is one we cannot touch. It is an unattractive, bare-boned site filled with incorrect spellings and word usages that would be easy to spruce up and correct. However, administration of the website has been contracted out, and, you guessed it, we cannot gain access to it.

PeRsistence

When PRacticing PR, there are always going to be PRoblems that you face, so that is where PeRsistence comes in to play. You have got try, try and try again until you can achieve what is best for your client. In the case of GaitWay’s little social media issue, after two weeks of no responsive correspondence, I went ahead and created a new social media platform for GaitWay. I started new Facebook, Twitter  and email (gaitwayBRLA@gmail.com) accounts so that our road blocks do not stop us. Although it may confuse some people to see two GaitWays on Facebook and Twitter, I think people will easily be able to tell and follow the active pages.

As far as the website, we have not quite made too much progress in that direction, but we will stay PeRsistent!

If you want to keep up with me about my progress with GaitWay PR, check me out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn!

Step by Step- The beginnings of GaitWay PR

I know it’s been a while since my last post, and I know that all of you are dying to know the name we decided for our group. I guess I will have to go ahead and ease the suspense. After a two hour meeting throwing words and numbers all over the place trying to come up with a group name, we decided on 6+ Solutions. We decided that even though there are six of us on this team, we can offer so much more than just six solutions to any situation; hence- 6+ Solutions.

Each of us have a designated position, and we are all taking our positions and making them our own. Lindsey Miller is our Account Liaison, and she is in charge of working with our GaitWay contact, Shelley, and making sure we are all on the same page. Taylor LeBlanc is our Research Director and is making sure she can find out everything she can about our organization and its culture so that we can apply it to our campaign. Hanna Munoz is our Writing Director, and boy does she have a way with words! She has already re-written all of GaitWay’s literature in order to assist readers with understanding the mission, background and purpose of GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship. Brittany Beatty is our Event Coordinator and is in charge of making sure our campaign events happen without a hitch. Lance Bordelon is our Design Director, and he has already shown off his skills by making our incredible logo!

I have incredible teammates, and I cannot wait to see what we come up with next!

My first thought as strategy director was to get the GaitWay social media going! Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be much more helpful in raising awareness than most people give them credit for. I was so excited to get things started from scratch; however, much to my dismay, someone got to that a bit before I did. While in the process of creating, I realized that GaitWay already has  Facebook and Twitter accounts. This would not be bad news, except for the fact that they are administered by people I do not know, and with whom I am trying with no success to get in touch. This poses a problem because not only can I not gain administrative access into either of these accounts, but also if I create new ones, the presence of two GaitWay accounts on either social networking site will create confusion for potential followers.

Frustrated with this dilemma,  Lance and I decided to take the opportunity to visit the Port Allen GaitWay site with a mission to obtain footage and photos to prepare for the moment we are in control of the social media aspect of our campaign; little did we know we would walk away with something so much more. After simply getting out the car and walking to the stable, I felt a sense of peace from our surroundings. The area is absolutely beautiful with horses and open fields. The real beauty, however, was with the riders.  The first child showed up and was barely able to sit up straight on the horse, but as the lesson continued, she began to lift her arms and turn around on the saddle while the horse was walking up and down the field. Seeing her progression through her lesson and the huge smile on her face brought tears to mine. It was truly beautiful to watch the difference GaitWay is making in her life, and I could not feel more proud to be working with such a life-altering organization.

It was a beautiful thing to see such little steps mean so much. I cannot even begin to express my happiness when I saw young Tristan, who showed up with canes to walk, wave at me in the middle of his lesson. He walked to the car cane-free when it was time to go. Lance and I were both speechless. PR is so much more than taking charge and controlling the social aspect of an organization. PR is about becoming a part of the organization and truly understanding what it is about.  My afternoon at GaitWay with Lance really helped me see that each step I take is a blessing, and I should use it to be a blessing in someone else’s life, just as Shelley does.

So until next time, I will keep taking this campaign step by step, and I will be grateful for each one!

On your marks… Get set…. Wait, how do I do this?

I am a senior at Louisiana State University, and I’m in my final semester before I graduate with that diploma and hopefully get a job in the “real” world. I am studying Public Relations and have loved being part of the Tiger Nation.

All Public Relations students studying at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication must complete MC 4005- Public Relations Campaigns. The basic idea of the class is that each student is placed in a group that is then given a client, and the group must put on a successful PR campaign for said client in one semester’s time. It is is known among all of us LSU PR Practicers (to call us practitioners might be getting a bit ahead of myself) to be the class that demands the most time, work, brain power and divine intervention. Naturally, I waited until my last semester at this wonderful institution of higher learning to take this class.

I will go ahead and be honest- I have never blogged before. This is strictly an assignment for class, so please excuse any blogging faux pas. I am looking forward to blogging though, because in class the other day I was declared to be “pretty damn dead” after taking a “Social Media Savviness” test. This test opened my eyes quite a bit because if I plan on one day being an actual PR practitioner, I better become alive in the social media world.

Though it’s not just me who is a bit behind in the social media realm. In fact, the entire practice of Public Relations is transforming as it adapts to the myriad methods of communication in today’s society. The Public Relations Society of America is currently in the process of modernizing the definition of Public Relations. As an exercise in class, each of us came up with our own modern definition of PR, and I cannot wait to see what is ultimately decided to be the definition.

After being split into our groups, my group set off to have its first client meeting. Our team of six met  at a CC’s Coffee House with our client, Shelley Rose of GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship here in Baton Rouge. We had a great meeting getting to know each other and establish our roles and goals. Our main team goal this semester will be planning and executing a few fundraisers in the late spring and help raise awareness in the community. This is the first time that GaitWay has enlisted the help of PR, so everyone is so excited to get started!

Following our successful client meeting, my team and I got together to begin our most daunting task yet- branding ourselves. Who are we as a group? How will we be identified in the community?  What are we going to call ourselves? This is actually a very difficult task, for those of you who are doubting. We sat around a table for over an hour throwing out numbers, words and anything that crossed our minds that maybe could work as a PR group name. It took long enough, but we finally came up with a name! I know you are all dying to know what we are going to call ourselves, but to save this entry to become way longer than necessary, I will introduce the team and its members in my next post.

Public Relations is an ever-changing practice, and I know that the service-learning experience in this class with GaitWay will help me to learn to keep up with the pace and be an effective practitioner when I graduate!