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A Recap on our Experience with a Service Learning Course

It has been a whirl-wind of a semester working with a real-life client, Youth Oasis Children’s Shelter, and fellow public relations seniors. I have never felt as much of a taste for the real world, post-graduation as I have during the past four months. From trying to find a time to meet between seven busy students, to communicating with professionals during overwhelming work hours, finding our “flow” was a struggle.

I think our biggest struggle starting out was getting past the world of hypotheticals. Our whole college careers have been spent working on projects for hypothetical clients, hypothetical campaigns and hypothetical products. That is where we were comfortable and willing to stay. As the semester rolled on we quickly realized that was not going to cut it. We had a client signed up and willing to take what we offered them. There were real people involved and very real budgets on the line. It was time to execute.

The moment this “clicked” for me was when I realized that if no one came to our kick-off event all of our time, efforts and client’s money would be wasted. I could not shake how embarrassing that would be from my head. Luckily it clicked for the rest of my group as well and we put our work into high-gear to get the right people to the event.

After long nights, countless emails, and a couple of drives to New Orleans to pick up donations, our event ended up being a huge success. We raised approximately $1,600 for Youth Oasis and made about 50 people aware of the services it offers. Below is a video recapping our event, Housing the Arts at Tin Roof Brewery:

Of course seeing the clients reaction after realizing how much money was raised and how many people came out to support them makes it all worth it. I wouldn’t take back the moment Youth Oasis’ director awkwardly hugged Marie-Therese in excitement as she looked terribly uncomfortable. Even the long drawn-out group meeting that seemed endless and unproductive will be some what missed. I do wish we had done things differently from the beginning, though.

I don’t know if we could be anymore prepared for this service learning class then we were in August, but I would urge professors in lower-level classes of Manship to stress how important this course is. It’s not only important to the students in it, but also to the Baton Rouge community. If taken seriously, this course could serve very deserving clients well, setting them up for success long after the students have graduated.

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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 Strategy Proves Vital to Youth Oasis Campaign

The word strategy is defined as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” People and organizations all over the world develop strategies every day to help them achieve their personal or corporate objectives. The implementation of strategy for organizations plays a huge role in today’s bustling society, especially in the field of public relations. Knowing all this, I was very excited when I was assigned to the position of strategic director for Broad Magnolias.

Throughout this semester, I have learned quite a bit about strategic public relations and why it should be important to every organization who wants to better themselves and maintain a positive public image. It is obvious that a good public relations strategy, or lack thereof, can lead to the life or death of an organization.

There are many things that a good public relations strategy should do. A good PR strategy should encourage teamwork and effectiveness within an organization, as well as reinforce credibility. A good PR strategy should also help an organization achieve its’ corporate goals, whatever they may be. This could be to develop a better public image, raise awareness or simply make more money and grow as an organization.

At the beginning of this semester, it was made clear to us that the most important objective set aside by Youth Oasis was to raise awareness for their organization. The members of Broad Magnolias took this objective into account and created a plan that we believe will help raise as much awareness for Youth Oasis as possible. We have developed a strategy to help Youth Oasis achieve their goals as an organization while they continue to grow and flourish in the Baton Rouge community. I believe the strategy we developed for Youth Oasis will have long-lasting positive effects on the organization.

Earlier I mentioned that PR strategy should be important to all organizations. I believe this concept should be most prevalent in the world of nonprofits. In order for a nonprofit organization to function, they must maintain strong relationships with their supporters while trying their best to find new people willing to support their organization. They must continuously try to raise awareness for themselves and let their key public know what their goals are if they want the company to grow. Luckily, it’s not hard for an organization to achieve these goals when they have a good PR strategy backing them up. To learn more about the voice and message of Youth Oasis, reach out on Facebook andTwitter. And don’t forget to come back next week for another lesson learned in the Broad Magnolias campaign.

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Applied research key to Youth Oasis campaign foundation

When I was assigned to be the research director of Broad Magnolias, I was excited, yet quite nervous to step into the role. I had taken the required research course and thought that I was prepared for the task. As someone who constantly asks “why” and conducts Google searches as a hobby, I was eager to learn more about research and see what we could learn through our efforts. However, I quickly learned that research was not for the weak.

Research is one of the most essential tools for almost any field or discipline, but especially in PR. It was especially important for us in building the foundation of our campaign for Youth Oasis. If we were going to plan a comprehensive, yearlong campaign, we’d need to do some digging not only into the nature and culture of the organization, but also the community atmosphere and the organization’s key publics.

Similar to writing, research is important because it permeates the process from start to finish. From the moment we first heard from our clients, our research began. We had to research each company’s background to figure our which organization we wanted to work for and to prepare for our first client meeting. From deciding which publics to target to choosing the best methods and media to use to reach our goals, research was involved at each step. I found this to be the most challenging aspect of the entire process. Just when I thought my search was complete, there was something else that needed to be looked into.

When we finally had enough information, we created the questionnaire. This type of research specifically is called applied research. It goes beyond just finding out information just for knowledge’s sake; you have to use what you find to get a specified result. As an agency, we found that our research was the foundation to our entire campaign. It shaped and determined how we would move forward with our planning.

The survey has to follow the guidelines set by the Institutional Review Board. The IRB makes sure that research involving the biomedical or behavioral research involving humans is ethical and appropriate. This includes making sure that our questions are worded properly, consent forms are accurate and thorough, and that all group members are trained and qualified to conduct research.

Our final steps will be to analyze our data and send out a post-survey to track our progress in reaching our goals. We learned very quickly, that research was a task that required the input of the entire team because its results affected each aspect of the campaign from design to event planning. Join us again next week to keep up with the Broad Magnolias journey. If you’d like to follow Youth Oasis, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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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.