As I sat in on eight panel discussions during the regional conference “Start Spreading the News,” hosted by Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter this weekend, I thought back to the valuable advice I received during my quarter-century as a PR practitioner. I also thought about how lucky our students are to have learned from more than two dozen professionals this weekend, each generously sharing words of wisdom. I wondered which words created “light bulb moments” for the 150 student participants. What resonated with them as they listened?
Good advice has stuck with me through the years. One example: When I was just 29, I became the head of communications for the Town of Babylon and spokesman for Supervisor Arthur Pitts, the top elected official in a town of 220,000 residents. I was young and pretty naive, and whenever we’d talk about strategy I’d find myself thinking in terms of how we could quickly and effectively achieve our immediate goals. However, I’d sometimes neglect to regard the motivation, attitudes and concerns of those who would be affected by our actions. Supervisor Pitts, who was just a few years older but was far wiser, advised me to carefully consider others’ motivations, concerns and perceptions, and ultimately how our actions will be perceived and reacted to before decisions are made. Of course, this was a fundamentally sound public relations approach, but it was a light bulb moment for me.
Fraser Seitel, the PR guru who authored “The Practice of Public Relations” advises PR students to “plan from the outside in.” It was my former boss’s approach re-stated: Always begin your PR strategies by examining how your publics may react and respond.
There’s no question that lasting advice can come from anyone. Putting yourself in places where you can meet practitioners and really listen to their experiences and life lessons, creates a huge advantage for your own professional development. Sometimes just a few wise words can stay with you, influencing and informing your entire career.
If you were there, what was your “light bulb moment” at the PRSSA conference this weekend? Your thoughts?
Many of us have books we keep meaning to read. Mine have been “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo and “Words That Work,” by Dr. Frank Luntz. Since Hugo’s book is approximately 1,500 pages and is in French (English translation available!), I opted to finally purchase Luntz’s 267-page tome.
I’m an admirer of political and public opinion strategist Frank Luntz. I often watch his political commentaries and follow him on Twitter. Luntz’s clients are primarily Republicans, although he’s worked for various politicians and business leaders around the globe.
The subtitle of “Words That Work” is “It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear.” Luntz frames his philosophy nicely in the book’s introduction; it’s an approach that should guide every public relations practitioner and professional communicator. “You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and pre-existing beliefs,” he wrote. “The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their minds and hearts.”
Luntz’s quote reminds me of a bullet point PR guru Fraser Seitel used in his textbook, “The Practice of Public Relations.” In a chapter on crisis management, Seitel instructs us to “plan from the outside in,” noting that the external environment, not internal strategies, should dictate how we select our priorities when communicating. Because we have to communicate through our target audiences’ pre-existing prisms, we should try to see issues the way they will see them before we can effectively craft our messages.
With its more than a million words, the beauty and the challenge of the English language is that there are so many ways to express an idea. I’m looking forward to discovering Luntz’ success in finding the words that work for us. As PR professionals, we must be very tactical when planning how we’ll use the language to engage and motivate our audiences. Your thoughts?
Karl Rove has been a political consultant since leaving the White House in 2007, working for the Republican Party and serving as a commentator for various media organizations. He is often credited with engineering George W. Bush’s victories, including two elections for Texas governor and two for U.S. president.
Phineas T. Barnum was a showman (and a former politician!) best remembered for creating international hoaxes and for founding a circus. He famously directed what public relations guru Fraser Seitel calls “pseudo events” — happenings and curiosities that sold tickets to a gullible public.
Last week, Karl Rove unleashed a firestorm of discussion among political pundits at Fox News and other media when he speculated that Hillary Clinton “may have brain damage” resulting from a 2012 concussion. He later stood by his “concern,” telling Fox last Sunday, “I’m not questioning her health. What I’m questioning is whether or not it’s a done deal that she’s running. And she would not be human if she did not take this into consideration.” He told the Washington Post that he believed she suffered “a serious health episode” and would “have to be forthcoming” and “cough up her medical records” if she runs for president.
Top Republicans from John McCain to Michael Bloomberg blasted Rove, calling his comments “disgusting” and “outrageous.” But the news organizations were all over the story, and it became central to political conversations this week. Mission accomplished, Mr. Rove.
In this blog I previously compared Donald Trump with P.T. Barnum in light of Trump’s relentless media campaign regarding whether Barack Obama was born in the United States. He honed in on people’s prejudices to help create a prolonged and silly public discussion. Like Trump, Karl Rove is P.T. Barnum revisited. By raising a false issue, he created a pseudo event that was and will be talked about. And like Barnum, Rove doesn’t care what’s true, as long as doubts about Hillary’s health will be raised if and when she announces her candidacy. Your thoughts?
Yesterday’s panel-filled schedule at the PRSSA Regional Conference yielded more PR advice in a single day than most students obtain in a semester. There were more than two dozen public relations professionals filling classrooms with guidance, tips, lessons and observations, and every student there filled notebooks and Twitter and i-Pads with pearls of wisdom grabbed at the event. For me, a repeated message–uttered by many a speaker–stood out and was crystallized by the keynote, PR guru Fraser Seitel. It was the same message your mother always told you: “Don’t lie.”
Public relations as a profession still suffers somewhat by the perception that we “spin” facts to garner a positive response from our targeted audiences, and that our messages should be viewed through a cynical screen. But too many corporate images and public careers have suffered at the hands of a lie. Energy company BP is recent proof. Tiger Woods is a great example of a superstar whose lies virtually ruined his career. Bill Clinton came within a vote of losing his presidency over a lie.“Don’t succumb to spinning,” Seitel told the group of 80 public relations majors attending the Hofstra-hosted event. “Lying is not acceptable. Everything must be built around telling the truth. There’s a great difference between doing well and doing right.”
Later in the day, during what was the most well-attended panel discussion, PR pros Bob Zimmerman and Bert Cunningham were asked why so many organizations and leaders–knowing the examples of its consequences–lie to cover up problems, thus leading to PR debacles. “People are human,” Cunningham wryly noted, “and they think they can lie their way out of a bad situation.” Zimmerman agreed that there’s often an “I can handle this” mentality that comes along with being a leader. And this is where a PR pro should be steering their bosses to the truth. “If you’re doing your job right, sometimes you’re the only one in the room shaking your head no,” Seitel told the PR students.
Mom was right. Lying is bad. And the best PR professionals know this, live this, and act accordingly. Your thoughts?
P.S. At the left of this blog I’ve added links for PR jobs and internships I’ve heard about. Take a look and bookmark this resource. It’ll be updated regularly!
I’m a big proponent of lifelong learning. I truly like going to conferences, workshops and classes where I can enhance my knowledge and connect with professionals. I enjoy occasionally serving on panels and was honored to participate in the Society of Professional Journalists’ conference this weekend, joining senior PR colleagues in a presentation on crisis PR.
Next week’s Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) regional conference, “Back to Basics,” is being staged at Hofstra March 30-April 1 and both students and PR professionals should not miss it. You can come for three days of events or just come to the superb panel discussions planned for Saturday the 31st.
The Saturday panels feature two dozen top PR professionals who will share their knowledge on topics including writing, pitching, public speaking, crisis PR, entertainment PR, public service PR, and more. These guest speakers include PR people from the New York Giants, the FBI, PRPLI, several major public relations agencies, corporations, and sole practitioners. The keynote address will be given by Fraser Seitel; he wrote the fundamentals textbook used by many Hofstra PR majors. There will be time for networking with the speakers, Hofstra alumni and other guests who are in a position to lead students to internships and jobs.
This will be time and money extremely well-spent, and I’m really looking forward to it. Registration cost is $40 for Saturday only (including breakfast and lunch); $55 for the whole weekend; or $115 for the weekend events plus a ticket to see “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway Saturday night after the panel presentations. You may register by clicking here. You can also look for “Back to Basics” on Facebook at “Back to Basics by Hofstra.”
For PR students, lifelong learning begins here. I am quite serious that this is the one event you should not miss. Whether you’re planning to have a career in PR or just want to sharpen your basic skills, you really need to be at this conference. Your thoughts?
There is little question that social media has changed the public relations industry. Nearly every listing for a PR job requires “social media skills.” And there’s an expectation that if you’re in your early 20’s, you know social media because you’ve lived with it.
Yet, my colleagues in academia and business complain that students who grew up at a keyboard don’t know how to write. Problems with punctuation, grammar and sentence structure render their social media skills irrelevant because they haven’t learned the fundamentals of effective, word-based communication (see PR guru Fraser Seitel’s brief quote on YouTube). Emphasis is placed on social media skills at the peril of the basics of good PR.
This is why Seitel is the keynote speaker at Hofstra when its Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter hosts Back to Basics, a regional conference March 30-April 1. No student planning a career in PR and communications should miss this. The conference’s panel discussions will be “an exploration and re-examination of the fundamentals of effective public relations,” according to the event’s pitch material, and promises “informative and entertaining programming to emphasize the all-important PR basics while not losing sight of the PR tools of the future.” There will be expert guest speakers, helpful workshops and excellent networking opportunties. Those attending will also have the opportunity to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway, not so much a lesson in success, but a superbly entertaining musical!
I love this concept and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. And many wonderful panelists have lined up to present workshops. There’s “The Perfect Pitch” with Patricia Gambale (Public Relations Professionals of Long Island), David Norman (Kitchen PR) and Glenn Goldberg (Parallel Communications Group); “Writing for PR” with journalists and authors Iyna Bort Caruso, Claudia Gryvatz Copquin and Paula Ganza Licata; “PR Public Speaking” with networking maven Mindy F. Wolfle; “Balancing Social Media with the Basics” featuring Jason Winoker of Hunter PR; “Integrated Marketing” with Bert Cunningham (expert and educator) and tentatively Robert Zimmerman (Zimmerman/Edelson PR); “Crisis PR” with Dianne Baumert-Moyik (Northrop Grumman), Brian Dolan (SYSTRA Consulting) and Sean Dolan (Diocese of Rockville Centre); plus sessions titled “Meet the Media,” Entertainment PR” and “Public Service PR” all followed by a case study competition. PR pros will come to lunch on Saturday, March 31 to network with student participants.
Don’t miss Back to Basics. It’s PR stripped to its essential roots and it’s worth a couple of days of everyone’s focus. Your thoughts?