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Professionalism and Ethics in the PR World

Ethics and professionalism each play a huge role in the public relations industry, and it is important for any PR executive to remain well versed in each of these subjects. Both topics are connected, considering that one’s professionalism can be compromised if they do not make the right ethical decision in the work place. PR professionals must be educated on ethics and professionalism in order to stay relevant and make the right decisions while on the job.
The topic of ethics can be very complicated at times. With several different philosophies surrounding the topic, and so many opposing viewpoints on what is right and wrong, there is still much to be learned about this complex subject. To many, ethics is known as a moral branch of philosophy. This branch of philosophy addresses right and wrong conduct. Originally, the term ethics came from the Greek word “ethos,” that is used to describe the beliefs and values of a community, nation, or ideology. Over the years, philosophers divided ethics into three major areas of study. These areas of study include meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. It is important for any PR professional to study ethics as much as possible, so they are able to make the right decision if they ever face an ethical dilemma in the workplace.
The topic of professionalism goes hand-in-hand with ethics, and it is important for all PR practitioners to remain professional at all times. The Webster’s dictionary defines professionalism as “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” The definition of professionalism is fairly simple to understand. In today’s world, those trained to do a specific job or educated in a specific field are usually held to a certain standard in the workplace. These people are expected to look, dress and behave in a way that is seen as “professional” by their peers and colleagues. When a person stays up to par with this professional standard, it will likely increase their overall success when looking for a job or carrying out tasks for a job they may already have.
When PR practitioners choose not to practice ethics and professionalism on the job, it usually results in hurting their organization or personal reputation. This is why it is important for everyone to conduct themselves professionally and make the right ethical decisions.

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PR Tactics Worth Using and Evaluating

Working as students who are immersed in courses that highlight mass communication and public relations, I have noticed that PR tactics and channels are evolving as generations are continuing to develop. Social media is the more obvious example to this discussion, because we are in a society now where self-generated content has become normality and traditional news mediums have taken a backseat to newer platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. As the Account Liaison for Broad Magnolias, I have learned that a SWOT analysis is sometimes not enough. Other types of evaluations including a PR audit are also efficient when it comes to evaluating.

More specifically with Broad Magnolias, a PR tactic that I did not consider but feel is worth mentioning is to utilize your channels effectively. We had our research director produce press releases for our upcoming event, Housing the Arts, a silent auction we will host next week to raise awareness and funding. However, instead of creating direct press releases, it was advised to us last class to produce editorials that tie in with Youth Oasis and our organization. By composing editorials we would be remaining relevant and exposing ourselves and information to a broader audience.

Immediately after our first meeting with our client, Broad Magnolias began drafting an awareness survey to evaluate the local knowledge of Youth Oasis. Based on the results it can be concluded that not enough people know that the organization is only one of two in the entire state.

Youth Oasis does not consult media when hosting an event and we are hoping for a larger spanned audience because of such. Broad Magnolias will evaluate this based on our post-awareness survey, which will be distributed after our kickoff event, Housing the Arts. Going forward from our previous survey, our team will add more questions related to the specific event to gage if awareness was increased and also keep questions from the initial survey to determine how we should help Youth Oasis when it comes to communicating important facts about their organization to their publics.

As mentioned previously, we received great advice on editorials as well as tips regarding our GOST from our peers. A strong PR tactic is to communicate with the professionals around you; ask for advice, editing assistance and for contacts or general ideas. While this may not be an actual evaluation process, it allows for the same activity to take place.

While working with Youth Oasis, Broad Magnolias will prepare a social media strategy plan for the nonprofit organization. In the process of creating a strategy plan, an analysis of Youth Oasis’ current state is required. Youth Oasis currently has a Facebook and Twitter to complement their initial website. The latter deliverables mentioned are mediums for the Broad Magnolias to evaluate the three objectives Youth Oasis strives to achieve: awareness, acceptance and action.

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Changes in PR Tactics: Modern vs. Traditional

Since the early days of public relations, the strategies and tactics utilized by PR professionals have changed many times. This is usually due to changes in technology, culture and public opinion. One early form of PR took place when nations around the world fought to abolish slavery hundreds of years ago. Another early form of public relations includes propaganda used by the U.S. and Germany during the world wars. The one similarity shared among all PR strategies is the need to spread a certain message and change public opinion, and the tactics that help to carry out these strategies change frequently.

A person who understands public relations should also understand the ongoing changes that occur in the media and PR world every day. For example, traditional PR tactics merely sent a message to key publics, and left it up to their publics to interpret the message and form their own decisions. Modern PR tactics are usually more conversational than traditional ones. Social media is a perfect example of this because it allows organizations to interact with their customers on a deeper level. Organizations can receive feedback from their key publics while also sending out their messages quickly and efficiently.

All PR professionals should understand how changes in PR strategies affect them and find a good balance between traditional and modern tactics. The press release and several other traditional PR tools are still relevant in the present day, so it is important for PR professionals to understand these. It is also important for professionals to understand modern PR tools like blogs and social media. The introduction of tools like blogs and social media allow PR practitioners to develop a more accurate and personalized message to send to their audience. Creating a more personalized message makes it easier for PR professionals to relate to their publics and create a positive image for their organizations

Broad Magnolias have utilized both modern and traditional forms of media in our campaign to raise awareness for Youth Oasis. Our team has utilized both print and digital media to help raise awareness for the organization and help them to continue growth and development even after we graduate from LSU. I believe that a truly great PR professional knows when it is best to utilize both modern and traditional media. When this concept is understood by an organization, it is easier for their PR practitioners to reach more than one audience.

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PR writing is key in Youth Oasis campaign

In any communication course, book or blog, you will learn that good writing is the most important skill to have in the mass media field. It is the backbone to creating and communicating messages. Even when a message isn’t disseminated via written word, like oral or visual, there is almost always a written component involved. Because of this, your writing helps to determine how your audience perceives you and the level of its engagement.

Although I am the Broad Magnolias writing director, I’m not biased in thinking that writing is the most vital aspect of our campaign for Youth Oasis. Our client provides a much needed service, emergency care for homeless youth in Louisiana. Because Youth Oasis’ service holds such social magnitude, it’s important that we make sure to carefully communicate its messages to the public.

Through our campaign, we will provide 10 media deliverables for Youth Oasis to utilize. All of these require some form of writing. Some deliverables are more directly dependent on writing, like our event speech, press release, event plan memo, media training guide, social media strategy plan and media kit. The others that don’t necessarily focus on the writing, still include it—our stewardship program, rebranding style guide, promotional video and media contact list. Because writing is so prevalent in our campaign, we must practice all of the aspects of good writing.

There are many opinions out there on what constitutes as good writing. In public relations, good writing effectively and creatively communicates a brand’s message to the audience. In order to accomplish this, practitioners must follow the three golden rules of PR writing:

  • Be consistent – Writing must be consistent within its medium. AP style is the standard for writing in all mass communication fields. It must also consistently use the same voice and tone across all messages, in order to help establish a company’s brand.
  • Be accurate – Writing needs to contain accurate and honest information, as well as correct spelling and grammar. If writing contains falsities or is confusing to read, a company could lose credibility with its public.
  • Be relevant – Whether a piece of writing is informative or entertaining, it has to be relevant to the intended audience’s wants and needs. If a reader doesn’t have use for the message, you will be ignored.

Throughout this campaign, I have made sure that the Broad Magnolias staff follows all of these rules when producing written content. But most importantly, I have kept in mind that we are not writing as individuals, or even as Broad Magnolias PR. We are writing as Youth Oasis.  I, and the rest of the Broad Magnolias team, commit to maintain the voice of Youth Oasis and to communicate it’s message—not our own.

To learn more about the voice and message of Youth Oasis, reach out on Facebook and Twitter. And don’t forget to come back next week for another lesson learned in the Broad Magnolias campaign.