Michael Phelan O’Toole

CO 201 : Fundamentals of Public Relations

Take Home Midterm Exam

10.23.2008

Part 1 : Summary Essays (Choose 3) :

1.Typical tasks and assignments of a PR agent revolve around getting the most through and consistent publicity for their client, via a targeted effort. Skilled writing is a heavy component, in producing press releases sent to the general media in hopes of getting a story picked up, as well as drafting copy for this and any catalogues, brochures, posters, and other supplemental materials intended for promotional distribution to the public. Editing is also essential, in revising and checking this work, and making sure that any texts of speeches, newsletters, electronic bulletins boards, or trade magazines communicate the proper message for the client.

Media relations is a very important part of a PR agents work, in pitching the client and their story to media outlets and journalists, in hopes of getting coverage in the newspaper and on TV and radio airwaves, as well as coordinating the media’s coverage of events, such as sponsored performances, openings of new programs, or any other event relevant to the client and their campaign. PR practitioners may often assist in organizing special events that the client or client organization is a part of, in hopes of attracting the media to attend and cover the event. A Public Relations agent may also act as a speaker on behalf of the client or organization, writing and delivering speeches to the public and the media, in well-communicated representation of their goals, upcoming events, or other information, in hopes of it being picked up the media, or as a

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way to build their audience or public profile. They will also often be assigned to work with individual graphic designers, typesetters, editors, and producers as part of a PR team, with the goal of creating material to be distributed publicly, which best presents the client and their goals, in printed or visual form. This calculated effort is aimed to capture the attention of the public, and potential audience, and allow the client to stand out to the media.

Research can be a large part of their job, in attempting to get a handle on their client’s audience, and evaluating the current programs that are in place, as well as looking at prior media coverage of an event. They will develop surveys to distribute to their client’s audience, or potential audience, as questionnaires. Additionally, they will take into account what PR efforts have worked in the past, and what story angles could work, given the current media climate, or which media outlets or journalists are likely to pick up their story, or give the most accurate coverage. With this information, they may also be responsible for developing a direct plan of action for the client, in effort to increase and maintain good publicity. Additionally, they may serve to advise an individual or company employees on how to operate cohesively in a firm, assigning specific people of varied background to ensure the success of a campaign or program. They may also advise their clients on the proper conduct or course of action in order to allow for consistent, positive media coverage, and other promotions.

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2. A PR practitioner should have outstanding skills in written and verbal communication, in that their work consists of being able to present news and information on their client, in a manner that is both clear and concise, as well as properly expressive. Given that this task must often be done in a timely manner, a good PR agent, in communicating for their client, should have the ability to harness the most coherent, inviting phrasing possible, and wordsmithing, without omission of facts, should be second nature to them. In the case of a press release, or in response to breaking news relevant to the client, a good PR practitioner is able to swiftly and accurately incorporate and react to the proper factual information, while still being a powerful wordsmith, in their ability to reflect best of their client or the situation. Verbally, they must be able to communicate clearly, whether in the case of public speaking in support of their client organization, or in effective pitching a story angle to a journalist. Generally, they should be at ease socially, as they will often be speaking with, and meeting a variety of people, whether potential clients or people in the media, with short time to get acquainted, in fast pursuit of getting the most coverage for their client, and meeting the expectations set forth in their campaign. They will need to have no qualms relevant to speaking up for their client and searching out the best resources for the campaign. The PR practitioner will also need to be comfortable with working as part of a team in adequately producing campaign material.

It is important that the PR agent have thorough background knowledge in management, business, and certainly the media, as all three of these areas play heavily into what they do, and are able to do. A grasp on how the media operates will assist

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them in how and where they pitch their clients’ interests, as well as give them a clearer perspective on industry deadlines, and general operations, as PR and the media hold a symbiotic relationship in order to best function. If a PR agent is not able to understand and “make friends with” the media, their career will surely be short lived. Understanding of business practice as well as management is essential in that, a PR agent is working around the parameters of client and industry standards and deadlines, and must be able to smoothly navigate the facts, figures and expectations of their client organization and media, as well as their PR team in an efficient manner. A hold on management is important, in juggling their campaign goals; being able to maintain client goals and events of the campaign. This is in addition to their being able to manage the go-between of client, media and other involved parties, as well as include all input, whether critical or creative, provided by their PR team members in crafting the campaign, and generally keeping things on task and time.

In the fast paced, ever-changing world of PR, they must, ultimately, have no problem with functioning as either a decision-maker or problem solver. This is important, in relevance to either the quick decisions that need to made in response to negative publicity; that is, crafting a “damage campaign,” or being able to keeps things organized and rolling along, given the often set time table of a piece of news or event, and the short attention span of the media. If things, are not going according to plan, given that there could be several parties involved, or a particular individual or possible promotional outlet is holding things up, there needs to be one person clear-minded enough to be able to make the call as to what will most benefit the campaign and client. In this

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instance, it is also important to not make rash decisions that could alienate the media, client, or future industry contacts overall. Personal stability and common sense are your best friends here, in that a PR worker will be under pressure, faced with the frustrations of last minute changes, time constraints, and dealing with difficult people. They will be forced to make the most thoughtful decisions, in, often a tense, short amount of time. A natural drive to satisfy intellectual curiosity will assist in collecting the most information, communicating it well, and following up with the right individuals and resources.

6. Of the ten “Be” attitudes of successful media relations, below are the five which I believe to be most important, and why :

I believe, as a PR agent, it is of the utmost importance to remain accessible, to your client, your PR team when working with one, and of course the media. As a PR practitioner dealing in media relations, it is your job to best represent your client in the face of media. In pitching to journalists or other media outlets, you must remain as open and available for them as possible, as they are the ones who are, or could potentially be covering your client. Given that the goal, typically is to receive the most coverage, and get your audience interested in your client or their organization, it is dyer that you are thorough in establishing your connection with the media, in both how you present the client in written-form, and also how you present yourself and the client verbally. You are the resource for them to gain the needed information to succeed in accurately interpreting the goals of your campaign. Embrace relying information or questions between the media and your client, or do not hesitate to gather additional information for

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the media, should they need it. You cannot expect their coverage to be satisfactory if you have not given them all of the proper information they need. It would be a horrible thing for, after crafting your campaign and sweating over attempting to contact the media, a media outlet to contact you and you not following up with them, or giving them improper material to work with. Remember that PR and the media have a symbiotic relationship; one cannot truly succeed without the other. It would be a mistake to perpetuate the traditionally antagonistic dynamic seen between Public Relations people and media journalists. I believe that if you are there for them, they will be there for you. Remaining an accessible, personable resource for your client’s goals or event, with information at the ready, gives the journalist extra incentive to remain on your side and give you good coverage. Additionally, assuring accessibility will leave them no apprehension in contacting you for follow-up information, or future coverage.

As I also stated above, it is necessary that you not only remain open in your media relations, but that you are able to provide the reassurance of being a true resource for their coverage of your client. Knowing that they can contact you for all their needed information will put them at ease and open up the possibility of getting the most extensive coverage available from them. Additionally, being their go-to resource will be a timesaver for them, and allow them to ask for any follow up material as soon as possible. This will give them the most time to put their effort into the actual client coverage, rather than spending time chasing you down with questions. With that, I believe being a true advocate will assist in cultivating a personable relationship with your media outlet, and thus, receiving “personable,” accurate story angles, which may

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help captivate your audience. If you are able to see the campaign goals through the eyes of your client, looking at it from a non-mechanical perspective, and emphasizing the true-to-life benefits of it, you will not only become the well-spoken voice of your client, but also the heart of what it is they hope to accomplish with media coverage. As first a good observer of your client or their product, and then outstanding communicator of its best values, I believe your coverage will increase.

It is also key that you be a strategist in your media relations, composing a targeted campaign, taking into account the focus of your information, which media outlet is likely to run your story, who your audience is already, and who they might be, and when the best time to act is. It may also be a good idea to pre-construct several different angles of your campaign, in order to receive the most exposure in a variety of media, and through promotional materials.

Lastly, it is a necessity that you act as team player, and be cooperative for successful media relations work. Not only is it the case that you need to stay open to your clients’ needs, input and campaign goals, and embrace the sounding board of your fellow campaign workers, but realize that the media is on your side. You need to see that they want to cover your story. It is a world of give and take, and in the end, a business; in order for them to be able to take an interest in your client and provide coverage, you need to work with them in supplying the most thorough and accurate information, and remain flexible to their needs and own deadlines. You cannot expect them to bend at your will, nor vice versa, in getting respectful and correctly placed

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media coverage. Regarding working with your client, you need to realize that it is their campaign, and you are representing them, and allow frequent communication, checking in on any new news or developments, in order to consistently be able to give the media the most updated material to work from.

Part 2 : Essay :

Public Relations agents are referred to as practitioners, due to their natural talents with the written and spoken word, and highly skilled ability to best compose and communicate the goals and image of their client to the media, and the general public. They must be able to express breaking news and ideas swiftly and effectively, with little error, in a vast paced environment. In addition to this, they are representing their client in direct interaction with publicity outlets, and must maintain an heir of professional, as well as accessibility in coordinating a healthy relationship and understanding between them and their client. I believe PR work to truly be a versatile craft, thus these agents are not merely hired hands, but someone who is adept at getting to know you and your goals, and cleanly communicating them to others, with an ever-flowing bunch of information coming in from all sides at nearly all times. For this, I believe the title of “practitioner” to be accurate. Their skills are exhausted in a multitude of ways, gaining knowledge through evaluation and practice of the art.

In expressing and creating their campaign, they have processed much information on their client, evaluated what it is the client hopes to achieve, and subsequently analyze the media climate, in relation to where and what will allow the

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client the most possible exposure. Without “spin” that incorporates any kind of deceit, a PR practitioner represents the client’s best efforts, in persuading the media as to why it is in their best interest to take the time to give them coverage. With these messages, the PR agent and client hope to achieve not only healthy coverage, but to cultivate widespread intrigued in an individual, event, story, or product. This is attempted through the PR agents carefully calculated efforts in communicating their campaign story properly and outstandingly, and pursuing a variety of targeted media stations that make sense for their message.

The client is an individual, or an organization, which believes that their efforts, event, product or position deserves, is in need of, or could benefit from an organized promotional and publicity campaign, and subsequently, media coverage. The client, in meeting with the PR practitioner, depends on them to craft the messages which communicate this desire and meet their goals of others, in the media industry agreeing on the mutual benefit coverage would provide. Whether the client is new to this general goal, or seeks increased exposure, they will present their past achievements or experience, explain what they would like to see happen, as far as what kind of media attention they would like. From here the PR agent should accumulate their client’s information and formulate promotional materials based on this, begin to agree on a plan of action with the client, as well as members of their PR team, and contact media resources which make sense for that client. The client should remain in contact with the agent, as to make sure they are up to date on any upcoming events or changes in the

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goals of their decided campaign. The PR agent decidedly represents the client in all matters of communication with the media.

Media itself, in this context, exist to exhibit, and mainly persuade Armed with carefully crafted promotional media aimed to assist the client and the overall campaign goal, the PR agent approaches the media; that is the representatives or journalists in television, radio, or print, and attempts to persuade them, or, in more positive language, help them to understand why their client’s story angle or event makes sense, or is necessary to feature in their medium. The hope is that, with extensive, calculated information given to the media, the best possible publicity will result. From this, there hopes to be a positive reaction, in a higher public profile, and a raised awareness of an individual or event. Looking at it another way, one could say that simply any recognition in the media is helpful to a client, or to quote media literacy theorist Marshall McLuhan, that “the medium is the message.”

On both ends, either PR or mass media, the ultimate audience is a deciding factor. A PR agent’s work in evaluating and constructing campaigns, and conclusively where to attempt to place coverage, is based on who the client’s audience is, or could be, and with this, what angle, and what media outlet appears will work best in their favor. That is, what radio station, TV station, print publication will suit their demographic, in either simply appealing to them, or swaying their views in some fashion. For an individual deciding what to cover in their medium, they must decide, given the PR practitioner’s pitch, whether or not their desired story could work in the context of their

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paper or channel, based on their own overall audience. If, despite a variety of angles, or different focuses for the story have been pitched and the journalist still feels unconvinced that the client will appeal to their audience, than the PR agent is forced to move on, and attempt to influence another outlet in support of their client.

This “influence” is what a Public Relations worker hopes for; to not lie or somehow cheat their way into the affections of media coverage, but rather succeed in convincing the powers that be of why and how this coverage would work best, and to all involved credit, and to, in the end, gain favorable coverage which gains support from the client’s audience. Influence is drawn through all combined tasks and assignments of the publicist and the PR team, or firm, as has been previously written of, as well as tackling the media which would logically heed the most results, given audience evaluations, and campaign analyzations. Lastly, it is a solid pitch and a personable PR agent, who, while multitasking and aggressively going after press, is able to realize the needed cooperation between them and the media, that serves to better influence their client getting coverage, and with good supporting information, allows them to get the most complete story out to their audience.