18 Powerful Quotes from Diverse Voices

 

Recently, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation announced its latest effort in its mission to promote diversity among PR professionals and companies. In its new book, Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership, the PRSA Foundation offers a collection of perspectives from 40 senior PR leaders representing diversity across gender, racial/ethnic, and orientation backgrounds. The PRSA Foundation plans to use the book to facilitate discussion events at colleges nationwide throughout the year.

I finished Diverse Voices for myself a couple of weeks ago and was enlightened to read about the problems PR faces in becoming a more diverse profession. However, I also came across some powerful advice that could be beneficial for any professional’s career development.

I’ve picked out 18 of my favorite quotes from the leaders profiled in Diverse Voices that best capture the essence of what it means to be a diverse professional—although I could easily include several more:

1. “When I was trying to break into the profession, there seemed to be a lot of opportunities that were of the “minority fellowship” variety. I rejected those opportunities because I didn’t want to be known as the minority candidate in the office. I wanted to be seen as a qualified individual. Organizations need to find a way to unearth those candidates without labeling them to check off that box.”

—Brenden Lee, Sports Partnership Communications, Twitter

2. “…just a few years ago, I received a phone call from the CEO of a top PR firm. ‘Hey, Mike, I just thought of something great, and I wanted you to know about it right away,’ he said. ‘We’re going to give a thousand-dollar scholarship to one of the HBCUs!’ A thousand dollars! They thought a thousand dollars was going to solve the whole diversity problem. I told him that won’t even pay for a meal plan for one semester… I even talked to some of the kids who received those scholarships. Many of them don’t even work in the profession anymore. They felt abandoned. They believed the rhetoric. And few people even followed up with them after they received the check. It was all about the person who wrote the laughably small check. Sadly, donations like these are not about the students. It was spin, a four-letter word for a reason.’

—Mike Paul, Reputation Doctor, LLC

3. “Diverse students tend to start out at a disadvantage immediately out of the gate. They don’t have the resources to spend their summers working at big city agencies and renting apartments in places like New York or Chicago. So instead of graduating with three or four agency internships under their belts, they’ll have three to four summers working at a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop—just to help pay their school tuition and living expenses. Even before they get started in their professional careers, the diverse kids have to struggle to catch up. They don’t get the advantages of having the real-world experience of an agency, and also miss out on the chance to make connections and begin building their professional networks.”

—Neil Foote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Foote Communications, LLC
Principal Lecturer, University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism

4. “As a professor, I often take my classes on field trips to agencies. We went to one large agency…(whose) people kept trying to engage with the one African-American student in the group. They seemed interested in talking to him about a job there. He pulled me aside during the tour and said, ‘…I would never work in a place like this. There’s nobody that looks like me here.’ And he didn’t want to be that sort of poster child, which was how they were making him feel.”

—Pallavi Kumar, Assistant Professor, American University School of Communication

5. “At every corporate or agency job I’ve had, I’ve always been the only one… So that ‘only’ aspect of it is a thing. When people interact with you as an ‘only,’ you can’t help but observe that being an ‘only’ makes you very noticeable. However, there’s another way of looking at the many times I was the ‘only.’ I also was the ‘first.’ If there’s a first, there can be a second and a third until we don’t need to count. But the ‘only’ aspect may be one of the reasons we have a retention issue. Also, having to be twice as good to get to the same place as a non-minority can be tiring.”

—Denise Hill, Assistant Professor of Communications, Elon University School of Communications

6. “When I first started the agency, I found that a lot of the organizations we were approaching, particularly in certain geographic areas, were not open to working with us. It was very challenging to convince people that we could offer something of value… During this period, there were a number of times when I strongly considered not making it known that I was the owner of the agency. I often wondered what would happen if, while I was out on a sales call, I represented myself working for the company versus being the owner. Would the conversations have gone differently?”

—Vanessa Wakeman, Founder an Chief Executive Officer, The Wakeman Agency

7. “More and more companies are mandating diverse representation on their account teams. And increasingly, request for proposals (RFPs) are requiring that information. It’s a business driven by billable hours, and sometimes the diversity piece, the multicultural piece of the RFP, is not the lion’s share of the assignment…and when it’s not…they bring out the ‘multicultural person.’ But then when it comes time to doing the assignment and having the hours assigned to that person, they don’t get it. It behooves clients to hold agencies responsible for that.”

—Helen Shelton, Senior Partner, Finn Partners

8. If you’re a Caucasian person, and want to understand what it feels like to be the only white person, show up at a Black church one day. Go to a soul food restaurant in a part of town you would normally never travel to. See how people look at you and see how you feel to be the only white person. And just try to authentically be yourself. And see if some of the things that happen to minorities end up happening to you.”

—Rochelle Ford, Dean, Elon University School of Communications

9. “Early in my career, I made sure I didn’t get stereotyped and pigeonholed into things that are just about diversity. I had to establish credibility on everyone else’s terms.”

—Michael Sneed, Executive Vice President – Global Corporate Affairs and Chief Communications Officer, Johnson & Johnson

10. “When people find out that you’re good at something, sometimes projects will find you. But you have to be able to articulate what it is that you bring to the table, and then seek to match that up. But don’t use labels like, ‘Well, I only do this or I do that,’ rather than, ‘Here are the skills I have. How can I apply those skills to different challenges that businesses or organizations might have?'”

—Damon Jones, Global Communications Executive and Reputation Strategist, P&G

11. “I’ve long believed that every hiring decision is a leap of faith. It doesn’t matter how many interviews you conduct or how much due diligence you put in or how many references you rely on. At the end of the day there is a gut call you’re making on an individual, diverse or otherwise. And you’re saying, ‘You know what? I’m going to go with this person because somehow I think it’s going to work.’ And sometimes that decision will work out fabulously well; sometimes maybe not so much. But there’s no getting around that.”

—Oscar Suris III, Former Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications, Wells Fargo

12. “Sometimes I remind myself of this parable when I’m dealing with my own employees: A mouse and an elephant are in the same room, and the mouse quickly learns that it has to understand how the elephant eats, when it eats, what it eats, when it sleeps, what happens to it when it gets upset. Does it move around? Does it stay still? The mouse needs to know everything about the elephant just to survive. On the other hand, the elephant is completely unaware—blithely unaware—that the mouse is even there, that the mouse is under all this pressure to survive or what is even important to the mouse and its survival in the room they share.”

—Andrew McCaskill, Senior Vice President of Global Communications, Nielsen

13. “…we need to be strategic, creative and intentional about nurturing mid-level and senior diverse talent. We must be vigilant about preventing vaguely defined notions of ‘cultural fit,’ unaligned with business goals, to impede embracing and developing multicultural professionals. We need to create equitable, inclusive environments that encourage people to bring their full selves to work and support the sense of belonging critical to retaining this essential cohort.”

—Judith Harrison, Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion, Weber Shandwick

14. “… you create an environment, a culture, that brings out there best, not only from women and minorities, but from the quiet people, the loud people, the people who work and think and express themselves differently. This is the difference between representation and inclusion, and that’s another mountain we have yet to scale. But if you want to win, you have to be relentless about it, all of it.”

—Jon Iwata, Executive-in-Residence, Yale School of Management
Senior Advisor and Former Chief Brand Officer, IBM

15. “The moment that you feel like you’re welcome, contributing and creating value, that’s when the magic starts. That’s when we feel like we can make a career out of our job or a specific company. When we bring our whole self to work it benefits shareholders, leaders, colleagues and ourselves. It’s a win-win for everyone…”

—Lisa Chen, Head of Internal Communications, Distribution and Go-to-Market, Google Cloud, Google

16. “So I think if you’re a person of color and you’re trying to remain purely professional on the job, that is not a good strategy. We have to bring our whole selves into the workplace and be known for all of that richness and strength. That is our superpower!”

—Patrice Tanaka, Founder and Chief Joy Officer, Joyful Planet

17. “…when it comes to young diverse talent, we need them to be the owners of their career and not the victims. We need them to find mentors, not wait for someone in HR to assign one. And we need them to become masters of their craft. After that it comes back to my grandfather: Keep learning and never forget who you are and where you came from.”

—Mike Fernandez, Chief Executive Officer, Llorente y Cuence
Professor, Boston University

18. “If I could go back and tell my younger self what to say to the woman who implied I was more desirable on paper, I would answer, ‘That’s nothing compared to how much better I am in person!'”

—Sheryl Battles, Vice President, Communications and Diversity Strategy, Pitney Bowes

Diverse Voices is available through its website in paperback or digital form. You can also purchase it through Amazon in all formats. I’m looking forward to seeing how this book and the PRSA Foundation move the needle in creating a more diverse and inclusive profession.

From Detroit Publicist to DC Professional: A Young Pro’s Journey to the APR

DISCLAIMER: This blog first appeared as a Pulse article on my LinkedIn page at the request of the APR Committee of PRSA’s national headquarters. You can read it here for your reference.

In September 2014, I found myself out of full-time work again for the fourth time since earning my bachelor’s degree in marketing and management. In my short career, I was one of the fortunate graduates to have held jobs related to my degree.

There was just one problem: even I didn’t want a job related to my degree. I wanted to do public relations.

And I didn’t just want to do public relations. I wanted to master it.

With that, I started my APR journey in July 2015 by enrolling on campus as a master’s degree student in public relations at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. There, I would meet my first APR: my program chair, Dr. Rochelle Ford. She would offer a few of us in my cohort the unique opportunity to earn our degrees by dually working towards completing our APR.

The coursework I would complete as part of my master’s program would serve me well in taking the first steps towards earning my APR.  They delved deeper into the introductory knowledge of PR I already had from my undergraduate and freelance experience, and the material from my APR study guide would help me advance even further.

I started seriously preparing for the APR in late 2016, and worked closely with a professional assigned by Suzanne Lundin Ross, the APR chair of the PRSA National Capital Chapter. For the Readiness Review, I presented a campaign from my brief time with McKinney & Associates, my first job in DC. Even though I didn’t develop this program, I did the best I could to tie my portfolio and candidate questionnaire answers back to the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that I would be evaluated on. All in all, my presentation lasted close to an hour, with 20 minutes of discussing the program and 40 minutes of questions and answers from my panelists. The moment after I left the room to let the panelists deliberate on their decision came the longest four weeks of my life: waiting on my results.

They would arrive in the mail in late July 2017. I didn’t advance.

Admittedly, I took the news pretty hard, but still I knew I needed to request feedback addressing where I went wrong. I only missed passing by two points, mostly because I didn’t have enough management experience.

More determined than ever, I worked with an additional coach to make revisions to my questionnaire and presentation. Going into my second attempt, I demonstrated my management skills by approaching it as if I were presenting two programs: the first based on what actually happened; and the second based on how I would do things as the creator of the program. My aim was to control the narrative by bringing my program full circle. Whereas the Q&A portion of my first presentation felt excruciatingly long, the second time it felt like a breezy 10 minutes. I had a much better feeling leaving the room this time.

I received my advancement letter in December 2017. The final hurdle would be the computer-based exam. To prepare for it, I re-read chapters from Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, 11th Edition – a book I was required to get for one of my first courses at Newhouse – during my work commutes. The entire process took me three months to complete, with a few days of vacation in LA in between!

And on a Friday in early April, I did it.

Earning my accreditation gave me the deeper knowledge of public relations that I was looking for almost four years ago. Back then, I thought my endgame was to land media placements and increase social media followers. Now, I know that true public relations professionals are consistently monitoring the environment for opportunities and threats, and encouraging their organizations to proactively adapt to these changes. I’m looking forward to the ways I can influence behavior change for meaningful missions.

What a different four years makes!

Find out more about #TheAPRDifference at http://www.praccreditation.org/

7 Things I’ve Learned Developing Social Media Content for a Federal Stats Agency

DISCLAIMER: This post first appeared on my employer’s blog. You can read it here at HagerSharp.com.

Admit it: when you log on to your social media every day, the last thing you’re looking forward to is seeing content from a federal statistical agency. And who could blame you? It doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as content from your favorite celebrity, sports team, or public figure.

But look at the Facebook and Twitter pages for our client, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card) and maybe you’ll ask yourself: Why have I not been following NAEP?

Developing the social media content for NAEP has been an interesting experience during my time at Hager Sharp. By setting the groundwork for content monthly and reporting on its metrics, I’ve been able to gather some insights on what works—and what doesn’t. To my surprise, much of what I’ve learned goes against some of the traditional norms preached by social media “experts.” Maybe it’s due to the nature of NAEP’s audience—researchers and educators—but there are some things that could be applied to other types of audiences too.

Here are seven insights you might consider for your own social strategies:

  1. Get clever with memes and GIFs. Sometimes the best way to make a good impression is to make someone smile. With NAEP, we have learned to do this through use of memes and GIFs, which when effective, are great for earning link clicks towards items and results.
  2. Load up on the image text. There’s a familiar saying that “less is more” when it comes to a lot of things; however, for NAEP that’s not always been the case. Twice this year we’ve shared some text-heavy tablescharts, and infographics describing NAEP’s assessment process. The result: image clicks. Of course, we have an audience that’s largely familiar with data and research. It’s all part of our strategy of bringing NAEP item contents in a more visually-appealing way, leading to link clicks which count towards engagement metrics.
  3. Weekends are great for long-form content. If you have a video, lengthy article, or detailed infographic to share, chances are you might get the most value out of it if you post on the weekends. We have learned this by sharing videos from NAEP’s social media accounts on the days where followers may not be as preoccupied and have an extra minute to spare learning more about NAEP’s work.
  4. Don’t underestimate photos of people; they go a long way. While it’s true that livestream videos have been all the rage lately, don’t forget that sometimes pictures will do the trick just the same. The reason for this is two-fold: first, people love seeing people they know; and second, people love putting a face to a brand or organization. Use pictures to help build that personal connection with your followers.
  5. Share other’s content, but don’t forget to tag them. If your organization’s goals include thought leadership, it’s tough to get there by just posting content about yourself. Through managing NAEP’s social media accounts, we have learned that sharing others’ content helps in the long run by increasing our reach to new followers; especially when the content is useful to them. Because when you tag an organization’s social media handle, it appears in their notifications and on their timeline to followers.
  6. Encourage competition. Whether they admit it or not, everyone loves the feeling of being better than someone. The same holds true when sharing NAEP’s state results. Not only do people want to know if their state’s education system is progressing or regressing, they also take pride in knowing whether their state’s results are better than another’s. Share content that affects your audiences in a way that encourages their involvement or engagement.
  7. People value transparency. What each of the previous insights comes down to is being open with your followers. Some of NAEP’s best performing posts are the ones that allow followers to demystify its complex process.

Social media is an important part of a comprehensive communications effort when it’s used to form relationships. Without question, developing content for NAEP’s social media is a never-ending challenge that’s been really enjoyable for me.

Who knew you could have this much fun with a federal statistical agency?

How Nonprofits and Associations Can Thrive in Times of Disruption

The following was originally authored for Hager Sharp’s agency blog. You can read it here.

Every four or eight years, the United States officially swears in a new president—oftentimes bringing a new set of challenges. That’s why as a social-change communicator, I felt it would be beneficial to attend the PRSA National Capital Chapter’s most recent Breakfast Breakthrough titled, “What the (Donald) Trump Administration Means for Associations and Nonprofits.” Attendees kept the discussion lively and came away with expectations, takeaways, and tools for news monitoring.

While observing and listening to attendees’ different perspectives, I discovered some helpful tips based on the presentation and my own experience with nonprofits:

  1. Social media is key: now more than ever—From the campaign trail to now, President Trump has never been one to shy away from voicing his opinions on Twitter. Nonprofits and organizations can adapt that same boldness on social media to advocate for their own causes. This may require a change in procedures for some organizations, where the clearance process can slow down their ability to seize the moment. In fact, a key thing about today’s social media is how quickly organizations can get their message out. The Pew Research Center found that Facebook was the third most popular source of news among all voters this past year. Being authentic on your networks is a great way to engage and gain public trust.
  2. Study the media habits of your audience—If you are trying to influence elected officials and their policies, it’s always helpful to understand their media habits. One suggestion for doing this is to utilize Twitter to follow their accounts and the accounts that they follow. Know which media outlets matter to them. For example, this Axios article provides information on President Trump’s daily media diet. For members of Congress, their hometown paper may carry more weight than The Washington Post. Once you understand the “media diet” of your elected official, you can understand how best to target your media messages towards getting his or her attention.
  3. Value insiders’ and outsiders’ opinions—When the breakfast attendees were asked about the last time we analyzed who our audiences are, not many of us raised our hands. Before your organization adapts boldness on social media, it’s important to know who your supporters are—on and offline—and assess how they feel. At the same time, organizations need to assess the sentiment of those outside of their base of supporters to get a sense of what they’re up against and whether there’s an opening to change hearts and minds.
  4. Embrace partnerships with like-minded organizations—Everyone knows the old saying, “There’s strength in numbers.” History has shown this to be true, from the early movements in the 1900s for women’s suffrage to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Both events were the result of individuals and organizations with similar beliefs coming together to advocate for the same cause. Even after those events, organizations benefitted by combining their efforts and becoming stronger advocates in the process.
  5. Facts matter, but emotions do too—Many of the great leaders for social change all share one thing in common: each of them successfully gained followers by incorporating facts into their messages along with relentless passion. As organizations seek to become thought leaders for their causes, the importance of using data and emotion to tell a compelling story will be crucial for inspiring current supporters and gaining new advocates.

Nonprofits and associations don’t have to fear the impending changes. Instead, by studying their new landscape and adapting boldness on social media, organizations can take advantage of opportunities to make sure their issues are at the forefront. It’s also important that organizations assess their own supporters and detractors, unite with like-minded groups, and combine emotion with facts to tell a compelling story aimed at securing more advocates. Attending this PRSA Breakfast Breakthrough gave me more confidence that the effective use of communications will serve nonprofits well—even in times of disruption.

3 PR Lessons (For Better or Worse) From Donald Trump’s Campaign

If you’re like me, the best news about this election season is that it’s finally over. Donald Trump became the next president-elect in a race most news outlets believed heavily favored Hillary Clinton. And no matter how you felt about either candidate, data from the Pew Research Center proves this was the one of the most divisive presidential races. Millions of Clinton’s supporters woke up Wednesday morning in despair. And, had the results had been in her favor, the same feelings would’ve been true of Trump supporters.

But for just a brief moment, let’s take a look at these election campaigns objectively. Trump’s campaign often gets dismissed for the attitudes it fostered towards minorities and women, but a closer look reveals that his campaign strategy was stronger than Clinton’s. Here’s why he was able to be successful:

  1. Inspiring change (for better or worse)—When Americans look to elect new leaders into office, they’re counting on those leaders to change the way things have been done. The idea of change is what led voters to elect President Barack Obama to two terms, and it’s Trump’s form of change that resonated especially well with white men and women without college degrees, who longed for the days of high-paying manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, instead of promising her own form of change, Clinton’s campaign was too reliant on continuing the successes of Obama’s administration.
  2. Authenticity (for better or worse)—If you were looking for a candidate who was always politically correct, Trump was definitely not for you. From his rhetoric in the debates and on the campaign trail, to his 5 a.m. Twitter rants about sex tapes, Trump had no filter when expressing his thoughts. On the other hand, Clinton was widely accused of being “calculated” and inaunthentic. Her campaign speeches addressed progressive issues, while her leaked emails revealed a different story. Because of this, Pew discovered only 33 percent of voters viewed her as honest compared to 63 percent for Obama in 2008.
  3. Branding (for better or worse)—The most memorable campaign slogans have taglines that resonate with both supporters and their opponents. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” was both a source of inspiration and a punchline of ridicule for voters this election season; but either way, you talked about it. As for the Clinton campaign, they relied on two slogans: “I’m With Her” and “Stronger Together.” As TBWA/Chiat/Day NY CEO Rob Schwartz notes in a recent PR Week article, “if you look at ‘I’m With Her,’ it was about the candidate, and ‘Stronger Together’ was really about the party.” Ultimately, what made “Make America Great Again” so successful was that it spoke directly to the people.

Overall, supporters of Trump saw what some skeptics of Clinton realized: she represented the status quo of a nation that they believed ultimately left them behind. It’s also worth noting, even Trump’s authenticity has been questioned as some people don’t believe he stands by his disparaging remarks about women and minorities. Regardless, while Trump’s election victory has left the country divided, there are still lessons to be learned from his campaign—for better or worse.

The Sweet Sciences: Boxing & Communications

This post was originally shared for McKinney & Associates’ blog and newsletter, where I was employed at the time. You can find it here.

Before I left Detroit for graduate school in Syracuse University I took the opportunity to work with a professional trainer for over a year. During that time I learned the sport of boxing, which is a great way to get in shape thanks to the levels of cardio involved.

Most people see boxing as a brute sport where opponents fight each other until the (sometimes bloody) end. But those who really follow and participate in the sport know the true level of strategy involved.

Similarly, communications is more than just the tactics you see carried out through social media, press releases and other forms of content. It also involves a strategy that helps you determine who your audience is and how best to attack (or reach) them.

Here are some ways you can consider boxing to be helpful for communications strategies:

  1. Preparation–Boxing is a sport that took me about 7-8 months to prepare for. It requires months of healthy eating, a routine of calisthenics, and practice of proper techniques. Meanwhile, communications campaigns also require preparation. After all, it’s important to ensure your team has the capacity to handle the work you’ve agreed to take on and the goals you’re looking to achieve.
  2. Scouting–In boxing, it’s important to take time out to get a scouting report on your opponent, whether by watching him/her against other people, or by getting “the scoop” from other trainers and observers. Similarly, communications efforts should have a clear idea of their audience’s preferences before they’re carried out.
  3. Defense–Whether you’re sparring or in an actual competition, most boxers are ill-advised against throwing a constant barrage of punches without considering how their opponent might attack. It’s the same concept in communications: if you go on the offensive all the time without anticipating your audience’s needs, they will likely grow weary of your message and you’ll lose out on opportunities.
  4. Stamina–Another drawback of throwing a constant barrage of punches is that it ultimately wears you down, making you vulnerable to attacks from your opponent. In communications, it’s also important to make sure your efforts are spread out through a timeline which is reasonable for you to execute and realistic for engaging your target audience.
  5. Reflection–In between boxing rounds and even after sessions or competitions, you have to take time to reflect on what you did right and what you did wrong in the ring. The same is true for communications efforts—high levels of activity are not enough to justify a campaigns success. Rather, emphasis should be placed on other measures, such as how many placements you’ve secured and how large their audiences extend.

Boxing isn’t just a great way to get in shape; it also helps you to consider communications strategies. Having a good balance of offense and defense is the same as having a good balance of listening and disseminating. Ultimately, the best way to be successful in either is to have a winning strategy.

Colin Kaepernick, and the 3 C’s to Finding Your Voice

This post was originally shared for McKinney & Associates’ blog and newsletter, where I was employed at the time. You may find it here.

What’s a good way to stand up for something you believe in? Well, if you ask NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, don’t! The QB for the San Francisco 49ers has been bringing attention to social and racial injustice in America by not standing for the National Anthem before games. Since Kaepernick’s actions caught the attention of media in late August, more NFL players have taken similar stands (or seats) with every passing week during the season. The move has even inspired U.S. Women’s National Team soccer star Megan Rapinoe to kneel before the anthem during recent matches. And, this week Missouri state senator Jamilah Nasheed declined to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in support of Kaepernick.

People admire those who are courageous enough to stand for something they believe in. It’s why McKinney & Associates has been successful at taking on the bullies and helping clients find their voice. Over the years, the agency has found three common characteristics among clients who have found their voice. Here’s what they have in common with Kaepernick’s actions:

  1. Courage: Kaepernick chose an interesting time to take his “stand.” Since taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, his performance has declined to the point where NFL experts were debating if the team should trade him or keep him as a second string player. Even with his playing time and career on the line, Kaepernick is displaying courage by expressing his disapproval for the nation’s actions.
  2. Compelling: Being an athlete in the nation’s most popular professional sports league is one thing; playing for one of that league’s marquee franchises is another. Kaepernick isn’t just compelling because of the stance he’s taking against the nation’s issue; he’s compelling because he was once of the league’s best QBs en route to almost winning a championship.
  3. Conviction: Despite the harsh wave of criticism he’s received, Kaepernick is displaying conviction even through adversity. He has continued to speak with media at their request and has provided thorough explanations for his actions. This conviction may have earned Kaepernick many detractors, but it has also revealed a fair share of reports.

Malcolm X famously exclaimed, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” By taking a stand by sitting down, Kaepernick and others are refusing to fall for the belief that America has upheld its promises to the people it’s meant to serve. Amidst the criticism he’s received, Kaepernick has been successful in stirring up conversations around racial and social justice; and a Black American didn’t have to be murdered at the hands of law enforcement in order to do so.

5 Practical Social Media Strategies Based on 3 Nonprofit Success Stories

The challenge that most of the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. face is two-fold.  First, budget restrictions prevent them from hiring additional communications professionals.  Second, this lack of staff capacity limits nonprofits’ ability to carry out the strategic public relations campaigns that most corporations can afford.  Because of this, nonprofit public relations pros are often tasked with managing social media strategies by themselves or with minimal staff support; in other words, serving as “one stop shops.”

As daunting as the task may seem, it is possible for nonprofits to be successful on social media.  Here are five strategies nonprofit communicators should consider:

  1. Use social media as part of an overall communications strategy – Social media should not, and cannot, be used on its own to achieve public relations objectives.  That’s why Make-A-Wish Bay Area Foundation partnered with social media agency Clever Girls Collective to develop a social media campaign for then-five-year-old grantee Miles Scott’s day as Batkid.
  2. Only be on networks which make sense for you – Many nonprofits believe that they have to be on all of the top social networks, when really they should focus only on using the social networks which best reach their target audiences.  For instance, Water is Life‘s efforts were largely Twitter-centric with the campaign’s goal of hijacking the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems and turning it into one of donation awareness.
  3. Tell your nonprofit’s story using multimedia – Social media content with visuals attract 94% more total views and are 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks.  That’s why Water is Life teamed with advertising agency DDB New York to produce a one-minute video, where Haitian residents read aloud users’ tweets with the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems.  With six million views, not only did the video decreased the popularity of the hashtag, but also solicited enough donations to the nonprofit to provide one million days of clean water to their clientele.
  4. Develop a balance between self-promotional and other’s content – Social networks are similar to real-life relationships: very few people like to be around others who do nothing except talk about themselves.  Not only were the pros behind #SFBatkid sharing content from their associated handles, but they also showed support for fans and celebrities whom were also using the hashtag through retweets and replies.  The result: 117 countries mentioned the Batkid and 13% of #SFBatkid tweets came from outside the United States.
  5. Foster relationships with your publics using your online presence – Most social networks offer tools for building relationships, such as Facebook’s ability to tag users and others within posts and comments.  This feature is what allowed the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association‘s Ice Bucket Challenge to go viral, with friends and family often tagging each other to be informed that the challenge had been accepted, and in return, to issue the challenge to more friends and family.

There are dozens of articles out there that claim to have social media “best practices” for nonprofits. Ultimately, the only way to find out what works best for you is through a little trial-and-error. Still, there’s little reason for nonprofits of all sizes can be just as effective as top corporate brands at telling their story with social media.

PR From Different Views: A Recap of the World PR Forum

Last week I attended the Global Alliance’s 2016 World Public Relations Forum in Toronto on behalf of my master’s program at Syracuse University.  Over the span of three days, I took the opportunity to learn about different perspectives on the practice and attitudes of PR professionals around the world by attending keynote sessions and workshops.

Here are some of the most interesting insights I took away from the conference:

Geert Hofstede Canada
Source: https://www.geert-hofstede.com/canada.html
  1. Canadians and Americans are kind of the same – One of the most useful tools I learned about is Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions through Janet Morgan’s keynote on “The Cultural Gap – Communications from the Centre.” Part of her presentation showed this graph comparing the United States with English-speaking Canada.  Ultimately, while there are slight differences, they’re not steep enough for PR professionals to have to implement vastly different campaigns for both countries.
  2. PR needs more balls – In a session about the recently released 2016 Global Communications Report from the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations and The Holmes Report, director and Golin CEO Fred Cook compared the PR profession to a game at the pool table. Cook summarized the report’s findings by saying, “the more experiences you have, the more options you have, and the more balls you have.”  By having more experiences, PR professionals can expose themselves greater opportunities to be successful in advancing their careers.
  3. Specialization isn’t such a bad thing – Another interesting point raised at the same session involved the concept of Golin’s four communities of specialists: explorers, creators, connectors and catalysts. Admittedly, I’ve always thought that it was best to achieve career success in PR by being a generalist – someone who can be good at a little of everything.  However, what I learned from Cook and the session is that large multinational firms are setup in a way that is more conducive to specialists.  Maybe then, it’s best to be a master of one trade than a jack of all trades.
  4. Don’t always have an “ask” – A topic of discussion for PR professionals from all nations is how to communicate with its indigenous population, or natives. While the panel session provided numerous strategies, one that stood out to me was the strategy of simply getting to know your nation’s indigenous population without having an agenda.  This strategy can be applicable to any publics you’re looking to build relationships with, as it emphasizes having trust in one another.
  5. Unique challenges and opportunities exist in African nations – Two different sessions on PR in Africa focused on career trends and the importance of traditional media methods. While the study on career trends found that professionals on the continent are dealing with decreasing pay and budget constraints, opportunities exists for those who demonstrate the skills and competencies needed to be successful.  At the same time, while new media is emerging among African nations, PR professionals should not abandon common traditional methods for reaching publics, such as town criers, local markets, folktales and proverbs among others.

Overall, what I learned at the WPRF was that while the concept of PR is nearly the same around the world, professionals must take time to carefully listen and learn different aspects of the cultures they’re trying to reach.  No two cultures are completely alike, and those who can communicate across cultures will improve their chances of being successful on a global scale.

Ten PR Lessons from Confessions of an Advertising Man

Most public relations professionals would tell you that differentiating themselves from their peers in marketing and advertising has become a part of the daily duties. So why then would a PR professional ever be interested in reading a book titled, Confessions of an Advertising Man?

I recently read David Ogilvy’s book for my PR Management course at Newhouse. Believe it or not, Confessions of an Advertising Man draws many interesting parallels for PR professionals to consider in their own line of work. Here are my ten favorite quotes and their relation to PR:

  1. IMG_20160218_103802“You don’t have to be a Christian to behave like a gentleman” – One of the more humorous quotes, PR professionals (or all reasonable professionals) should conduct their work ethically and as if the entire organization depends on it. (See Arthur W. Page Society principles)
  1. “Imitation may be the ‘sincerest form of plagiarism,’ but it is also the mark of an inferior person” – Being authentic goes a long way in PR.
  1. “It is easy to be beguiled by acres of desks, departments, and other big agency appaurtenances. What counts is the real motive power of the agency, the creative potency” – Bigger isn’t always better when you’re trying to find the perfect agency to work with or work at. Remember: quality over quantity.
  1. “A habit of graceful surrender on trivial issues will make you difficult to resist on those rare occasions when you must stand and fight on a major issue” – Not every disagreement with a client is worth being right over. PR professionals must often pick and choose their battles.
  1. “When you sit down to write your body copy, pretend that you are talking to the woman on your right at a dinner party. She has asked you, ‘I am thinking of buying a new car. Which would you recommend?’ Write your copy as if you were answering that question” – In other words, most PR writing should be factually-based with limited “fluff.”
  1. “I never tell one client that I cannot attend his sales convention because I have a previous engagement with another client; successful polygamy depends upon pretending to each spouse that she is the only pebble on your beach” – The best leaders in PR are able to deliver personalized solutions for their clients’ needs.
  1. “…I praise my staff as rarely as Pitard praised his chefs, in the hope that they too will appreciate it more than a steady gush of appreciation” – Maybe not everyone will agree with this one, but it’s something to think about when trying to avoid becoming complacent.
  1. “…I see red when anybody at Ogilvy, Benson & Mather tells a client that we cannot produce an advertisement or a television commercial on the day we have promised it. In the best establishments, promises are always kept, whatever it may cost in agony and overtime” – For PR professionals, time management and teamwork are key to avoiding such situations.
  1. “I have never wanted to get an account so big that I could not afford to lose it. The day you do that, you commit yourself to living with fear. Freightened agencies lose their courage to give candid advice; once you lose that you become a lackey” – Whether you’re just starting out your career or an established firm owner, PR professionals should never put all of their eggs into one basket.
  1. “I admire people who work with gusto. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, I beg you to find another job. Remember the Scottish proverb, ‘be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead” – Sounds easy enough, right?

As a fairly quick read, it’s no wonder Confessions of an Advertising Man is considered a classic for business professionals. I highly recommend it for professionals at all levels.