On holidays and birthdays, it’s quite the norm to get public expressions of congrats through text, Facebook and Twitter. To be honest, I love all the birthday wishes I get on Facebook around my birthday. However, this past Mother’s Day, my love for electronic shout-outs came to a screeching halt when I received a “Happy Mother’s Day” text from someone who, I believe, should have called.
This incident made me wonder, well for starters if this person really thought this was ok (really…REALLY???), but more importantly, if it is becoming the societal norm to communicate through email, text and social media?
As a communications professional, part of my job is to stay on top of trending communication methods and monitor how effective two-way communication is changing. That’s my job. I don’t question it and I don’t fight it. I just watch and adjust accordingly. And I’ll be very honest, I am the Queen of sending emails and texting. It works for me because I can track conversations and multi-task.
With that said, I also understand that there are key moments where you have to pick up a phone or meet face-to-face. Example: If your emails aren’t getting through or if you need an immediate response, you call. Common sense to some, but to others, it’s really not. In this age of texting and emailing, it’s becoming perfectly normal to send any and everything through text and email. Ask the hundreds of people who are completely ok with sexting. But that’s another conversation.
Here, we talk about Mother’s Day.
I would never text my mother a “Happy Mother’s Day” text and this has nothing to do with the fact that she doesn’t know how to reply to a text. The reason is because her rank as mother puts her on the level that deserves face time, or at the very least a very theatrical phone call. Now my calculations of who, and what occasion, deserves face-time or a phone call will take forever. Although there is a method to my madness, it’s still madness.
But there I am, looking at my Happy Mother’s Day text from this person who I share my life with on a very regular basis (and yes, I typed that with attitude), mixed with the dozens of Happy Mother’s Day text from people I haven’t seen and spoken to since I (or they) responded to a Facebook birthday wish. Heck, some were just numbers, which left me trying to figure out who they were. The text from my loved one just didn’t belong.
Or did it?
Am I overreacting? Are we moving into an age where this is becoming the norm and has to be accepted as so? Are people like me just being prudes when we see two people on a date spending more time on the phone than actually talking to each other? Will networking events eventually turn into textworking events? If not, where and how do we cross the line?
Step 1: Have a genuine interest in improving the community. If your project will only have a positive impact on your business, then you are 1) so reading the wrong blog and 2) in for quite a fight. Having a genuine desire to bring a resource to the community that will help its members should be your driving force and it will also help you gain support from community members at-large.
Step 2: Do your research. I’m not just talking a demographic analysis. I’m talking about good ole’ fashion primary, grassroots research. Hold community meet and greets or “block meetings.” An elected official I once worked for held block meetings where he asked members of the community to invite him to their block and share their concerns. This tactic shows community members that you have an interest in learning about their concerns and gives you the opportunity to get feedback from neighbors.
Sidebar: It’s very important that you do not dismiss negative feedback. Sure, people are resistant to change, but there could be legitimate reasons why they feel like they do. Take note to even the negative comments.
Get involved, build real relationships with neighbors and learn about the community. Coming into a community and deciding what’s best for its members without getting to know the needs and culture of that community is so…Avatar (the movie).
Step 3: As the old saying goes, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” Wait until after the research is completed to start your community relations plan. Your plan should include goals that will have a positive impact on the community and address community concern. You can’t correctly identify this without research. Also, waiting until after your research is complete will help you identify barriers, develop sound strategies to overcome those barriers, and identify accurate target audiences (including local elected officials, community leaders, opinion leaders and supporters).
Step 4: Develop a plan. All strategic plans should consist of at least the following:
- The overall situation
- Research analysis
- Audience (note, the media is not an audience…it’s an outlet)
Step 5: Save money by being proactive. Don’t wait until a problem occurs to implement a strategy. Proactive community relations cost less than reactive community relations.
Step 6: Use traditional and social media as an influencing and transparency device. As I mentioned in the note in Step 4, media should be used as a means to communicate. While traditional media outlets will help build credibility, monitor public opinion, and influence relevant audiences, social media can provide a level of transparency, which is very important when attempting to build positive community relations.
Step 7: Monitor progress and set-backs. After you have received the community’s approval and start your project, continue to monitor the overall climate and concerns. You will not identify all barriers to a project prior to starting. Often, problems won’t arise until you are well into the project. However, addressing them at the early stages, as opposed to the advanced stages, will help a great deal.
Remember, many times community members have valid reasons for opposing new community developments (increase in crime, decrease in property value, decrease in quality of life, air pollution, gentrification, increase in taxes, etc.). Ignoring these concerns could be costly to your overall project. Doing business in a community only for the sake of providing financial benefits to a small selected group is not only mean, but unnecessary. Following these steps will help you build positive relationships with the community, have a positive impact on your bottom line and have a successful project.
So what steps would you add?
Asia Cobbs, student at Lincoln University, interviews a peace of PR’s president, Shalimar Blakely about public relations. The good parts, the not so good parts, and on answering the question on everyone’s mind…what exactly is PR?
AC: Where are you from?
SB: Born and raised in Philadelphia. I’m a Philly girl!
AC: Did you have a passion growing up?
SB: No not really, I had no clue what I wanted to be, working in PR was actually an accident.
AC: I never understood the definition of Public Relations. What is the purpose?
SB: Well there are so many aspects to it. The general definition is managing the brand, image and reputation of an individual or organization, but there are so many ways to do that from a PR and Communications perspective. It depends on the goals of your client as to how you’re going to do that.
AC: Did you always know that you would be in the PR profession?
SB: No I did not. I majored in Marketing before PR. Once I attended Temple I knew Marketing was not what I wanted to do because of all the math. I was stuck between advertising and PR, but I chose PR even though I didn’t know anything about it at that time. I knew I wanted to do something where I could be creative.
AC: I see you studied at Temple University. Were you involved in any organizations?
SB: Well I was a non-traditional student. I had my son, and I was working and attended school so I wasn’t really involved in on campus activities but I was a member of the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society and other off-campus organizations.
AC: What type of internships did you receive?
SB: I worked in corporate America and made sure I related everything to PR even though that may not have been my official job. I also completed an internship in the Marketing and Communications department with an organization that helped students get the training they needed for job placement. It helped build my resume. Internships are very important, but volunteering with professional and school organizations is also a good way to get hands-on experience.
AC: What has been the greatest challenge presented for you?
SB: I think this is not only for me but others in the PR field as well, and that is getting people to recognize the value of PR. It gets frustrating sometimes.
AC: What’s your most favorite and least favorite part of your job?
SB: Actually there’s nothing that I do not like about PR, I love it. I love the writing aspect, the messaging, and the fact that I can actually write something that can motivate change. I love working with community initiatives and with organizations that want to help build communities.
AC: How is it being president of PBPRS?
SB: I love it! As president I deal with PR, management, finances and so many other things. This is my last term serving but I enjoyed everything about it. Five years from now I believe people will still remember my ideas.
AC: One day I hope to write for a popular magazine such as Essence, become an author of children’s books, photographer and maybe come into the field of PR entertainment. Honestly, I want to do it all. I love to be creative, mobile, and energetic; I love making other people happy.
SB: Go for it! Do it. Only from experience will you know what your passion is and make mistakes. But you will learn from it and grow!
“What I got out of this interview is that it’s not about the money, it’s about partaking in a career/job that you love and to gain the most hands-on experience you can get because this field is competitive. Speaking with Ms. Blakely made me realize that I should continue interviewing other people in the field that interests me, I think I will take that advice! ” ~ Asia Cobbs
Asia Cobbs is a junior at Lincoln University , majoring in Mass Communications.
“We can choose to see the good in whatever moment we are living in.” Those were the words of Essence Editor, Constance C. R. White, as she wrote about choosing to be happy as the world continues to cope with the sudden passing of Whitney Houston. While I was truly inspired by her words and plan to remember them throughout the A Positive Me Challenge, I couldn’t help but think about the natural negative emotions that comes after someone’s life is struck with misfortune.
This reminds of a time when I was upset after an argument, and I told the person I was arguing with, “I accept your apology, but I still have the right to be angry with you. Let me be angry.”
Of course, it didn’t last long. I think by the next day I was through with being angry (I just don’t have that type of time and energy). But I always think about that statement I made: ”I have the right to be angry.”
As we finish up week three of the A Positive Me challenge, and take active steps to choose to be happy and positive, I wonder if participants ever get the feeling that sometimes, you have the right to be angry or upset. Just as you can choose to see the good in those situations, is it also your right to be angry? And does working through that anger help you become a better person?
In less than 24 hours, a peace of PR will kick off the “A Positive Me” challenge, where people across the world will (among other things) give up negativity during Lent. Taking the challenge is simple. Just visit a peace of PR’s Facebook page, LIKE us, and post:
“I’m taking the challenge to be A Positive Me!” #apeaceofPR
Throughout the challenge, our president, Shalimar Blakely, will post a weekly journal about her experiences and she welcomes your feedback and comments. More than anything, we want this to be a learning experience for everyone involved. So please share. Is this challenge making you feel empowered or powerless? Take the challenge and let us know!
Here’s to a wonderful journey!
As a Public Relations and communications professional, I find it easy to apply the lessons I learned from college to my daily practices. After all, most of the technical things that I may have forgotten are pretty much a Google search away. But what about the not-so-technical matters. What should I do if I say too much during a media interview that’s later taken out of context? And how exactly do you tell your boss those three little words: “That’s not newsworthy?”
All young professionals have been down this road. Whether it’s Public Relations or Public Accounting, somewhere between undergrad, finding a job and graduate school, we are introduced to the School of the Hard Knocks: those real world situations that can only be resolved by real world experiences.
Side bar: If there is anyone reading this who has somehow managed to avoid the School of the Hard Knocks, I STRONGLY (notice the emphasis on strongly) encourage you to be the first to comment.
The good news:
Unlike that one person reading this who has never enrolled in this school, you are not alone.
Utilizing personal relationships that are built through professional organizations help the young and inexperienced discuss these professional faux pas, learn from it, laugh about it and move on. For example, my colleagues and I occasionally get together for what we call a PR Pow Wow. This casual conversation between PR and media professionals allows us to share information with each other that helps us develop into the PR dynamos we know we are capable of becoming. More importantly, we talk about what happened “at school.” After a few laughs, “oh no’s” and the occasional gasp, we get advice from more experienced professionals on properly handling the situation, should it happen again. During PR Pow Wows, we are not judged and, yes, the Vegas mantra does apply to all conversations.
So, as you register for Mistakes & Mishaps 101, remember that there are like-minded individuals in those professional organizations you joined who can help you navigate the halls of the School of the Hard Knocks. With an open-mind, a few bumps, and possibly some tears, you too will become that guru in your own right.
The bad news:
Because life experiences are on-going, you’ll never graduate.