A reason to celebrate PR: We’re in the money!

February 5, 2008

Geez! How did I miss this one?

According to Rachel Zupek, a writer at careerbuilder.com, “public relations manager” ranks among the Top 20 jobs with the highest salary growth in the past year. I knew there was a reason to be optimistic about this business (yesterday’s post notwithstanding).

careerbuilder_logo.jpgHow reliable is this survey? That’s anyone’s guess, as there’s no detail about methodology. Could be like so much of the research we see today — a come on to grab our attention and pull in our clicks. It worked!

Yes, my friends, according the study, the top U.S. earners with the title of “PR manger”  earn $96,720 while the average salary is $72,132. So when you go home tonight, have some champagne and celebrate our collective career success.

You know, I spent most of my practitioner years at the PR manager level or higher. If you want my opinion, we’re workin’ way too cheap!

Thanks to PRKent senior April Samuelson for the link!

I need your help this semester, so chime in

January 13, 2008

The new semester begins tomorrow, and with it comes a new assignment for me. I’m taking over the “Public Relations Online Tactics” course from Michele Ewing, who has created and shaped it over the past 24 months. Michele’s will be a hard act to follow, but follow it I must.


Because the class comes with a huge grading load and a steep learning curve (on the tech side), I’ll have less time for ToughSledding over the next 4 months. But maybe I can use this space to share the lessons that come from coaching a group of digital natives on the use of digital media.

This challenge might worry some folks my age, but I’ve been experimenting with online media, 1.0 and 2.0, as long as any of these students. While they were chatting on IM and stealing music with Napster, I was studying and observing the whole phenomenon. I think I can hold my own with these kids, but we’ll know for sure come May 2, won’t we?

You can help me with the class, and I trust you will. While the syllabus is in place, the course is in constant motion. So please let me hear your ideas on what a course covering online strategies and tactics should include. Keep in mind that Kent State is a professional program that prepares students for jobs as PR professionals. Everything we do is based on strategic analysis and measurable results.

“Audience-Objective-Strategy-Outcome” is our mantra. And while we love to play with the new digital toys, we aren’t distracted by them.

Here’s a list of the core elements of this course, followed by a list of the hands-on projects that later become part of the students’ portfolios.

What’s missing?

The course examines/dissects…

  • Analyzing and writing for online publics
  • Monitoring and tracking online media, including blogs and social networks
  • Integrating online and traditional strategies & tactics
  • RSS feeds and aggregators
  • Responsible search engine optimization
  • Tagging and bookmarking
  • Blogging as a strategic communication and research tool
  • Social networks as strategic communication tools
  • E-newsletters to serve vertical audiences
  • Intranets and wikis and where they fit
  • Website navigation and usability variables
  • Online media relations/blogger relations
  • Online newsroom planning and content
  • Podcasting

The course includes hands-on experience with:

RSS Feeds. Students set up an aggregator to monitor blogs and websites related to strategic public relations and report useful content to the class via online discussions.

Blogging. Students create blogs focused on specific areas of PR and post 10 times over 12 weeks. They create and implement a plan to build readership, but without resorting to trickery such as blog memes and selfish link-baiting.

E-newsletters. Students use content management software to write and design a newsletter for a student organization.

Podcasts. Student teams take on a real-world client and create a 5- or 6-minute podcast to support the client’s objective. The experience goes from research and concept to final production and presentation to the client. (We don’t yet have a video component here, and that’s a weakness we must address.)

Newsroom critique. This segment calls on students to analyze and dissect the online newsroom of a large corporation or organization and produce a report that points to strengths and weakness while making recommendations for improvement.

Since grad students make up half the class, I’ll ask them to research and report on case studies in the strategic use of social media in public relations practice, with a special emphasis on measured outcomes. I have a vested interest in this assignment, as it’s the focus of my sabbatical research next fall. Grad students also will read “The Cluetrain Manifesto” and participate in online discussions about this seminal work.

I know. I know. It’s too much for one course — way too much. But that’s the digital world. It’s overwhelming. We’re in the process of migrating segments of this class to other skills classes within the program. E-newsletters will end up in “PR Publications”; online newsrooms and blogger relations will go to “Media Relations & Publicity.”

Our challenge is to integrate emerging NEW-media content without sacrificing important OLD-media content, as much of it remains relevant to PR practice. We’re blessed in that our new, $21-million facility here at Kent State — the envy of PR and journalism educators everywhere (blatant plug) — has the tools to support us.

Yep, since Tim Berners-Lee empowered us with his World Wide Web, we’ve all been working longer and harder. That’s not going to end. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never catch up — never, never, never. But we must stay in the race, even if it means losing some sleep.

Ten years ago, I didn’t have a wireless laptop. If I had, I would never have envisioned writing blog posts like this one on a Sunday morning. Instead, I’d be having coffee with the beautiful lady in the kitchen and talking about our favs in the NFL playoff games. She’s watching them now. I’m editing this post.

So maybe this class should start with a segment on how to avoid compulsive online behavior, you know, digital addiction. Sadly, I’m not qualified to teach that part.


Update: Rob Jewell offers an excellent perspective today for PR professionals thinking about moving from the business to the classroom.  If you’re one of those, check it out.  1/14/08. 

Kent State in the headlines — again! What’s your advice?

December 14, 2007

foot.jpgIt’s fortunate the state of Ohio doesn’t allow firearms on college campuses. Otherwise, I worry that the administration at Kent State might shoot themselves in the foot. They’ve done so in the figurative sense three times this semester, and it hurts us all.

Since September, three management errors have landed KSU in the headlines, and the impact on long-term reputation is beginning to show. In each case, the university has ducked serious questions from the media and issued statements that rationalize their missteps. As a faculty member AND a financial backer of Kent State, I’m cringing, and so are many of our alumni and friends.

As I said, three stories have bitten us in the backside. The most recent broke yesterday when Akron Beacon Journal reported that Ed Mahon, ksuseal.jpgVP of information services, received a nifty little bonus in addition to a 10% raise this year. The bonus was $88,000 earmarked to pay Mahon’s tuition for a doctoral program at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School.

The Case program in “business leadership” is one our own College of Business can’t duplicate. We focus on “teaching” business, Weatherhead focuses on “doing” business. So the Case doctorate is clearly a better fit for Mahon. Read the rest of this entry »

Why I don’t trust marketing

December 5, 2007

A while back, maybe a decade, I attended a lecture by Plain Dealer columnist Dick Feagler. Dick opened his talk by telling our students he writes 12 columns a month for Ohio’s largest newspaper. About twice a month, he said, “I actually have something to say.”

columnist_dick_feagler.gifDick would make a fine blogger. Like columnists, bloggers don’t always have something relevant to say, but our readers expect something nonetheless. So we write, sometimes when we shouldn’t.

In the grand scheme, few people will care — as the headline says — why I don’t trust marketers. But since it’s been gnawing at me for, oh, 15 years, I figured I’d put it out here for your consideration and feedback.

Why now?

Blame it on the blogosphere. I see too many 30something PR bloggers who don’t or won’t differentiate between PR and marketing. Most use the terms interchangeably, and I worry that a generation of practitioners may come of age not knowing the difference.

images.jpgMarketing: PR’s “evil twin.”

I started using the pet name “evil twin” about a year ago –my flippant way of differentiating the PR function from the distinct discipline of marketing. My concerns took root in the early 1990s, when the folks at Medill coined the term “integrated marketing communication.” Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking ‘outside the table’ creates value for PR

September 12, 2007

I’ve stopped reading articles about PR’s need for “a seat at the table.” They drive me nutsimages1.jpg (arrgh). You see, I disagree with folks who think PR must operate as a fully integrated branch of management — or, God forbid — marketing. When that happens, we tend to lose our perspective, not to mention our cajones.

Sure, PR people need a seat at the table. No one’s debating that. But so many of our critics insist that PR’s greatest weakness is our inability — even our unwillingness — to see challenges from the MBA/management perspective.

Here’s a different take…

To create real value, PR needs to spend a lot more time kicking the client’s ass than kissing it. To do that, we gotta push back from “management’s table,” at least far enough to see the complete picture — to escape the group-think of mahogany row. Read the rest of this entry »