Practicing professionalism and ethics with working with Connections for Life: MorphPR learns what it takes to be successful practitioners

By: Erin Caruso

As my last semester of being an LSU Manship student comes to a close, my group and I reflect on everything we have learned about public relations professionalism and ethics. The PRSA Code of Ethics and professional values have been engraved in our brains for the duration of our time in the Manship school, and we finally get to put them to use during this campaigns class.

Image via: http://bit.ly/1ICOHT7
Image via: http://bit.ly/1ICOHT7

At MorphPR, we have been diligently working toward creating a one-year public relations campaign for the local nonprofit organization Connections for Life. We have set goals and objectives we are determined to meet and have followed through with all strategies and tactics to make our campaign successful. A large part of having a successful campaign relies on public relations professionalism and the code of ethics.

I speak for all the members of MorphPR when I say that we have definitely grown and learned a lot about professionalism during this campaign. Professional values are vital to any profession, especially public relations. The professional values provide the foundation for the code of ethics, and having a set of core values help guide us in the decision making process and our behaviors. A few professional values I believe we exhibit at MorphPR are advocacy and independence.

As public relations practitioners, we have to believe in what we are advocating. Before we could be strong advocates for the Connections for Life program, we had to research and learn about it first. Research not only allowed us to gain knowledge about the program, but it also gave us an emotional connection. Once we strongly believed in the program, we became strong advocates and made it our responsibility to reach out to the Baton Rouge community to share information about the wonderful nonprofit.

Independence is something MorphPR experiences everyday. This class has allowed us to work closely with a client and forces us to be held accountable for our actions. This service-learning course has tremendously helped us prepare for the real world because it forces us to become independent. For example, last week we were running behind on printing business cards for our Earth Day event. Since this issue was our fault, and not the clients, MorphPR had to pay for the rush shipping costs. Although it was a mistake on our part, it was a great learning experience for all of us because it was a real life experience and it reminded us we needed to be more independent and responsible.

Erin Caruso is the MorphPR event director. Get connected with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter. Connections for Life invites you to celebrate 15 years of empowering women to improve our community. Join us for a night at Mount Hope Plantation on Tuesday, April 28th from 7-9pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

Tackling the big “E”: Effective tools for evaluating our Connections for Life PR campaign

By: Shaunda Johnson.

According to Meera.com, evaluation involves collecting and analyzing information about a program’s activities, characteristics and outcomes. Though evaluation is often seen as something that is done at the end, evaluation is an ongoing process that starts when a plan of action is made.

Image via: http://bit.ly/1zdGuiW
Image via: http://bit.ly/1zdGuiW

As MorphPR began to draft its one-year campaign for Connections for Life, the agency also drafted evaluation tools to determine the success of the campaign as it unfolded. Evaluation tools are needed to make improvements, demonstrate impact and make informed decisions in the future. These reasons reinforce the importance evaluation for MorphPR and how the agency can provide evidence for the client. In fact, 84 percent of PR leaders say that “evaluation makes PR credible.”

However, there are many myths about program evaluation,  Apa.org describes the top three as:

  1. Evaluation is a time-consuming activity that generates lots of boring, useless data.
  2. Evaluation is a one-time event done only to prove the success or failure of a program.
  3. Evaluation is an overly complicated process that must be done by an outside expert because it will be a burden to program staff.

Anyone functioning under the assumption that these myths are true is on the wrong path and will spend excess time, money and resources on programs that are unsuccessful. Especially in the PR field where the measurable impact in terms of monetary gains is severely low which leaves the PR department often taking a backseat to the marketing department when it comes to company budget distributions. There is no doubt that evidence is king in the PR field and evaluation is how to prove its value to the company.

Here are some evaluation methods from Smallbusiness.chron.com that are easy, cheap and can be performed multiple times throughout a program or campaign.

Surveys

With free or low cost survey making tools such as Survey Monkey and Qualtrics , surveys are now easier than ever to create, distribute and analyze. Surveys are the most preferred research and evaluation method due to the low cost and convenience of implementation.

Media Content Analysis

Though this method can become tedious if the client is a major corporation with numerous media. It is an integral factor for a small nonprofit or business to be able to see the evidence. It’s not just about quantity but also quality when tracking media coverage, it’s important to monitor how the media is talking about the company and how many of the company’s key targeted messages are being picked up.

Online Metrics

Obtaining online analytics has become increasingly simple with free tools such as Facebook Insights, Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics.  These tools take complex data into simple snapshots of information about the company’s website or social media profile. Again, it’s not all about quantity when analyzing a digital presence and comment evaluation is inevitable.

MorphPR utilities these  evaluation tools to provide evidence to Connections for Life and to assess the agency’s next step. Just remember that tackling the big “E” is simple as long as you begin with the end in mind.

Shuanda Johnson is MorphPR’s design director and a senior in mass communication with a concentration in public relations. Check out her online portfolio and follow her on Twitter.

P.R. Tactics & Channels: How MorphPR Uses Them to Help Connections for Life

By: Courtney Costello

It can be confusing to be a public relations practitioner this day in age. With so many different audiences and an ever-growing media landscape, it can be hard to decipher what direction to take your campaign in. Sure, a PR practitioner can work with their client to create specific goals and strategies for a campaign, but it’s the implementation of these things that can be tricky.

To begin: what exactly is a PR tactic? Often confused with the concept of a strategy, a tactic is different than its antecedent. A tactic, in its simplest form, can be described as a “strategy on wheels.” In other words, a strategy is the list of actions created by the PR practioner to achieve their goals and the tactics are the steps taken based off the strategy. Therefore, tactics must be concise, tangible and applicable.

Baton Rouge non-profit, Connections for Life, wants to drive traffic toward its thrift store. One of MorphPR’s strategies to achieve this goal is to host a booth at Louisiana Earth Day in downtown Baton Rouge to promote thrifting and ultimately drive traffic to the store. Thus, a tactic they’ve created is to handout promotional marketing materials, such as a brochure, to the Baton Rouge residents who attend the event and invite them to visit the thrift store.

PR ChannelsNow that you understand tactics, how can you maximize their effectiveness? One way is utilization of the best channel based off your client’s key publics/target audience to distribute your messaging and implement your tactics. This is the time to use the research you have previously collected and apply it to your campaign. Whether it’s to send press releases to your local news channel or distributing fliers at your local church, it’s important to maximize the amount of exposure your client receives and exhaust all channels possible. This can be done by multichannel marketing. Multichannel marketing is a modern method that encompasses the combination of different channels, to work together and maximize the effect of your messages and tactics.

In an effort to promote the Connections for Life thrift store, MorphPR will post promotional messages on the organizations official social media accounts in conjunction with sending an e-newsletter to subscribers. This allows the Connections for Life message to reach a larger audience than if it is only been distributed through one channel. This conglomerate of viewership can also be referred to as the “asteroid effect.” This analogy describes the use of multi-channel tactics to create a more extensive effect.

When implementing the tactics of your campaign it’s important to remember that it’s not about just one channel, but about many channels. While it’s important to decipher what specific channels are more important than others based off the research of your key publics, it’s vital to your campaign that you choose as many channels as possible to effectively distribute your campaigns message.

Courtney Costello is the MorphPR strategy director and a senior mass communication major from New York. View her digital portfolio or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Public Relations Strategies and Connections for Life: Getting the Message Across

By: Courtney Costello

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Image via: http://bit.ly/1Bp5YtF

As public relations practitioners, our job is to further our clients goals and objectives while positively promoting their business overall. In a way, we act as a guide on their journey to success. In order to do this, we carry out a series strategies and tactics for the client. For example, at MorphPR we have created a strategic message plan and media timeline to ensure our client, Connections for Life, is promoted to the public in a positive and effective way.

However, this is easier said than done.

The plan created by the public relations firm, in this case MorphPR, must be constructed strategically to not only be effective, but be setup in a way that their client, Connections for Life, breaks from the clutter and stands out. To guarantee this, here are a few strategies PR practitioners can use:

  1. Do your homework.

 Before you can begin formulating a message plan for your client, you must first understand your client. This means knowing your clients mission, history and goals, so you can make informed decisions in regards to your client. For example, Connections for Life’s mission is to aid in the rehabilitation of women who have recently been released from prison and are reentering society. MorphPR after learning of their client’s mission could then begin to draft a strategic message that encompassed the organization’s mission. Along with being fully knowledgeable of your client’s mission, it’s important to know your clients history and your client’s competition. This way, you can create a strategic message that is original and does not conflict with past campaigns, or overlaps with your competitions messaging.

  1. Know your campaign goals.

Who does your client want to target? Who is your customer? What are you trying to achieve? These are all important questions you should answer in regards to your campaign, in order to carry out an effective message strategy. At MorphPR, we met with Connections for Life on several occasion to find out their areas of concern and overall goals. One was to strengthen the association between their thrift store and the program it directly supports. Therefore, we decided as a firm we must create a strategy that would not only urge people to shop at the thrift store, but to give them incentive to shop at the thrift store. In other words, we think an effective strategy would be tapping into the customer’s emotion and showing them their dollars can directly change someone’s life. Therefore, having a grasp on what your client wants to achieve can shape your message and give you direction when creating it.

  1. It takes more than just a news release.

In the modern day public relations landscape, it takes more than just a news release to disseminate your message to the media. Along with sending out a well-written news release, public relation firms should target media that directly relate to their target. This includes, but is not limited to, television, social media, blogs, etc. In these cases, news releases are not always appropriate. Be prepared to create media advisories, pitches and pre-planned social media posts to get your message across in the best way. In efforts to promote the Connections for Life thrift sore, MorphPR is not only sending press releases to the appropriate recieptants, but is sending pitches to local fashion bloggers to promote thrifting and where their readers can go to thrift. This is a non-traditional way to get our message across, but can prove to be an effective one. All in all, not all clients are the same, so why should the way you promote them be?

These are just a few strategies on how to effectively craft and promote a message. Being creative when creating a message for your client is key, but what is most important is to be strategic and make sure your client’s goals and objectives are being met.

Courtney Costello is the MorphPR strategy director and a senior mass communication major from New York. View her digital portfolio or connect with her on LinkedIn.

MorphPR promotes Connections for Life, realizes importance of excellent writing

By: Kelli Griffin

Throughout our time in the Manship School of Mass Communication, one lesson has been stressed over and over from day one: the importance of impeccable writing.

Image via: http://bit.ly/1AYI6fI
Image via: http://bit.ly/1AYI6fI

In public relations, the written word is at the core of everything we do. from memos and talking points, to news releases and media advisories and from video scripts and research reports, to tweets and Facebook posts, everything comes back to writing.

I have put together a few simple tips that can help anyone improve their PR writing skills.

  1. Make sure you always use AP style. Because so many of a public relations practitioner’s deliverables are sent to the media, it is important to write the same way as the media. This means you should use active voice whenever possible, should always use parallel construction and should never use the Oxford comma unless leaving it out would cause confusion.
  2. Inverted pyramid is your friend. When writing a news release, make sure you use the inverted pyramid style. This means that the most important information comes first, and the least important comes last. Newspapers have limited space and newscasts have limited time. Reporters and editors will just cut information off of the end of your news release to make it fit within their story parameters.
  3. Know your medium. The writing for social media will look much different than the writing for a sponsorship package. Tweets are limited to 140 characters and can be more casual, while an annual report should be more formal and professional.
  4. Know your audience. When doing work for clients, keep in mind that not only are you giving your work to them, your work will be passed on to their audience. Our client, Connections for Life, is a nonprofit in Baton Rouge that helps women who have recently been released from incarceration to transition into an independent life. Connections for Life also runs a thrift store. We have to find balance in our messages. What appeals to thrift store shoppers may not appeal to people who donate to nonprofits. Knowing who is likely to receive our messages will help us shape our stories to have the greatest impact.
  5. Edit, edit, edit! Always check over your work at least once, if not twice. Then have someone else look at it too. Careless errors detract from your message and make you seem less credible.

Writing skills are a key component of any PR practitioner’s toolbox. Taking the time to think through what you write will pay off in the long run, and remember, as with any other skill, practice makes perfect.

Image via: http://bit.ly/1Mn2cqx
Image via: http://bit.ly/1Mn2cqx

Kelli Griffin is the writing director for MorphPR and is a senior double majoring in public relations and accounting. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.

MorphPR furthers professional relationship with Connections for Life, learns valuable lessons

By: Cate Brooks

The PR world is closely focused on relationships – with the public, with the media and with the client. For an agency to represent their client as best as they can, it is essential to build a strong relationship with them. OverIt, a marketing firm in New York, offers five suggestions to successfully managing the agency/client relationship: tell great stories, be able to say no, pick up the phone, find out their goals/expectations and deliver them, and deliver not great news in a great way.

Image via: http://bit.ly/18hIG1a

Throughout our experience thus far, we have found each of these five suggestions to ring true. To tell a great story about Connections for Life that gets people interested, we must discover what we ourselves find compelling about the organization. Each member of our team comes from a different background, so what touches me may be different from what intrigues someone else. By combining our different reasons why Connections for Life interests us, we will be able to effectively touch a large portion of our key public.

Furthermore, we have learned the importance of learning what the client expects and wants. The MorphPR team has a great deal of drive and truly wants to help Connections for Life, so we tend to make lofty goals. By meeting with the client and discussing her needs, we have narrowed down what is most important to the organization at this point in time. Based on Connections for Life’s needs, we will be creating collateral materials including a new brochure and an e-newsletter template.

As in any relationship, it is a two-way street. While it is the job of a public relations practitioner to serve their client as the client sees fit, one must not forget that there are certain obligations the client should abide by as well.

Another important aspect pertaining to relationships in public relations is stewardship. According to author Kathleen Kelly, there are four elements that make up stewardship: reciprocity, responsibility, reporting and relationship building. MorphPR strives to practice stewardship by fulfilling our promises to the client and the public, continuously communicating with the client and keeping them updated on any changes, and expressing our deep appreciation for what our key public does for us and Connections for Life.

Cate Brooks is a senior mass communication major from Roswell, Ga. Connect with her on LinkedIn or view her digital portfolio to learn more about her.