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.

The Role of Public Relations Research at Connections for Life

By: Amber Mason

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

Public Relations practitioners spend a large amount of time organizing events and writing press releases. We pitch news stories, and execute a myriad of tactics on behalf of the clients we represent. The root and foundation of these tactics begin with public relations research.

When first introduced to a client, PR practitioners should gauge the client’s position in the community.  The organization’s mission, perception, and general capacity to operate are all important starting points. An in depth assessment should follow, which gauges the niche, structure, competition, and opposition.

The client is usually facing some issue such as raising awareness or promoting an event, and the next step, situational research, can help with finding a solution. This step includes an in-depth review of what the organization has done in the past and how the practitioner plans to remedy this issue.

Publics are an imperative aspect of the research process. The messaging, tactics and everything that follows, flow from the key public. It is essential identify key publics and  demographics to help tailor messaging accordingly.

Connections for life serves previously incarcerated women. When conducting research for the organization, it was important that we first had a grasp on how often women were incarcerated in Louisiana. This would help convey to key publics how imperative the cause was.

After conducting background research, we had to determine who would help the cause. A large amount of support comes from the Baton Rouge church community. This provided us with our key publics.

Karen Stagg, the director for Connections for Life, wanted to increase traffic in the thrift store. Our PR team had to find out several things: who lives near the thrift store and who is more likely to shop at a thrift store.

Those snippets of our research have ultimately led us in our campaign, Research is the compass in finding resolutions for the client.

Amber Mason is a public relations senior and the MorphPR research director. Follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

How to show expertise in your field: the MorphPR experts gain new insights from Connections for Life

By: Shaunda Johnson

Keep Calm I'm An Expert
Image via: http://bit.ly/1EUisQw

As graduating seniors, the MorphPR staff are well versed in the subject of public relations. We have spent numerous years cultivating our writing, thinking, research and deadline orientation/ organization skills both in and out of the classroom. We express our thoughts about goal setting and information evaluation through our writing. We conduct research to find answers to problems, while holding ourselves accountable for deadlines and remaining organized. MorphPR has the public relations expertise that Connections for Life needs. However, does MorphPR have the nonprofit expertise needed to create a one–year campaign for Connections for Life

Public relations professionals need to know more than just public relations; they need to know anything and everything about their client’s industry. According to the article “Business Plan: Analyzing Your Industry,” we had to start with an industry overview. We needed information about the organization’s industry, about the community the organization is a part of and about the organization itself. As we began to access our knowledge of Connections for Life’s industry, we began to evaluate the meaning of being an expert in that industry.

In 2010 ipwatchdog.com released an article titled “How to Show People You Are an Expert in Your Industry.” The article includes six steps on how to increase your credibility in your industry, with number one being specialize your brand. MorphPR commits to this rule through its mission of providing public relations service to non-profits; we never claim, “We can do it all.” However, we also make it a point to be experts in the non-profit sector that Connections for Life’s is in. In order to create effective messaging, we need to know what and whom we are talking to.

Once MorphPR establishes itself as Connections for Life experts, we can skip down to steps five and six on the article list. We have to get writing and get published. No one can tell you about Connections for Life better than the MorphPR team, because we are the experts. Writing and getting published are the best ways MorphPR can show our client’s industry that we know what we are talking about.

Image via: http://bit.ly/1CPtdS5

Being an expert according to “3 Ways to Become the Go-To Expert in Your Field,” means establishing yourself as an author. MorphPR plans to capitalize on that advice by telling the story of the women Connections for Life has helped and also explain the purpose of the organization’s thrift store.

At MorphPR we take our dedication to our client and becoming experts in their industry very seriously, which is why we dug deep to understand everything about Connections for Life. We look forward to combining our public relations expertise with our client’s industry expertise to create an effective one-year campaign that will take Connections for Life to the next level.

Shaunda Johnson is a senior mass communication major from Atlanta, Ga. Connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more about her.