What Does a PR Person Do All Day?

The PR person’s job is probably one of the most misunderstood jobs of all. No, we don’t go to parties every night, we don’t “spin” tall tales to reporters, and we don’t slap backs at fundraisers and festivals to appear part of the “in” crowd (though we aren’t above shaking hands and introducing ourselves to anyone we feel needs to hear our clients’ stories). The other day I decided to log a day-in-the-life of a PR person, namely my day. Here is what it looked like:

In one day, between reading, sorting and replying to no less than 75 e-mails and receiving several phone calls, I:

  • Started a PR plan for a client’s new communications program.
  • Wrote a script for a workshop I was to co-deliver with a client on the new messaging we helped them craft.
  • Held 2 one-hour conference calls with 2 separate clients – one to strategize on an upcoming event and the other as part of our monthly check-in how things are going.
  • Had coffee with someone wanting to get into PR.
  • Took a quick, 30 minute peek at Twitter-Facebook-Pinterest-RSS feeds.
  • Wrote a press release, including having 2 phone calls with the client to “get it just right.”
  • Talked with 3 reporters, requesting one correction and setting up two interviews.
  • Counseled  one of my consultants about a media strategy that wasn’t going well.
  • Developed a report for a client’s upcoming Board of Director’s meeting.
  • Completed a message “audit” of one (out of 6) competitors for a client in preparation of an upcoming messaging session.

In essence, I wrote, researched and talked all day with a focus on preparing and getting out client’s stories to the right people, with a little bit of smoothing wrinkled brows when things didn’t go as planned. Not exactly a party, but rather what it takes to make progress in the game of influencing.


UVA and Bad Public Relations From Someone Who Lives Here

As a long-time public relations counselor, it is painful to watch the PR debacle around the ousting of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan by its Board of Visitors. As a long-time “C-villian,” it is agonizing.

When blunders are obvious to the man on the street (poorly worded public statements, the media reports around hiring of a PR firm to “burnish” an image, secret meetings and seemingly blatant truth hiding), you know you’ve got trouble. And, the PR gaffes seem to continue. The damage done to the reputation of UVA will take years to overcome.

But, something else pains me about this whole PR nightmare. The impact it is having on Charlottesville, overall.

I am not a UVA graduate. I have not worked for the University. But, I am member of this community. I grew up just 25 miles outside of Charlottesville, and returned in 1999 to make this town my home. I remember the days when UVA was “just a school” and not considered a top school to attend, as it is now. I remember the days when Charlottesville would never have landed on the lists of  “best places to live in the United States” as it so often does now. I remember the days when the Charlottesville downtown mall — lauded as one of the most successful walking malls in the country — was crime-ridden and lined with abandoned store fronts. Today it is now a thriving destination for the arts, dining and shopping. In fact, I am often told by UVA graduates — my stepson included — once they get to Charlottesville, they never want to leave. I understand.

But, the utter lack of transparency and authenticity displayed bu UVA’s Board, and the disrespect shown to the larger community by an institution, which calls itself a cornerstone of our economy, history and population, boggles the mind. Why can’t they just tell their community what is really happening? And, why continue to keep the doors closed?  It would do well for the Board of Visitors and Rector Dragas to remember what Thomas Jefferson, founder of UVA, said: “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

Punchy Infographics Made Easy

by guest blogger, Christine Hohlbaum

What is an Infographic? It is a story-telling image that conveys complex data at a glance. A good infographic tells a story using the visual medium. A bad one plunks down seemingly random data without an overarching narrative.

Essentially, there are four basic types of infographics:

1. The “state of” an industry/trend/idea: These infographics are great for celebrating a milestone or sounding a warning alarm. The best ones combine timelines with a vision of how fast the world is changing.

2. Viewer Resource: Great for building goodwill via “how to” resources, supplying a utilitarian bulletin-board “guide” to a topic, curating “sticky” experiences with interactivity or repurposing promotional items, these infographics can be posted on a wall and used as a guide.

3. Comparative Image: Comparative infographics can inject humor and levity into content with items that are clearly different, or can help extent a public debate, such as a Mac vs. PC infographic.

4. Evolution: Good for “food for thought” content, establishing authority, triggering deeper discussion or debate.

Before you can even put your fingers to the keyboard, you have to consider several steps first. Like a movie script, infographics require a certain level of brainstorming and sketching to plan out your storyboard before you get to the details.

Research. Decide what your subject is going to be and do some research. An infographic is not just a pretty picture: it says something. Avoid presenting stale, outdated information. Ask yourself, “What do I want people to know? What do I want it to say?” Hard data is essential. The more powerful statistics you have, the better. But don’t overload your infographic with random data as you might your plate at Thanksgiving dinner. The consequences are a jumbled image with too much information!

 Brainstorm. Once you have some hard data to work from, consider the layout and design. Infographics often work best when the graphics reflect the subject of the data, so let the data inform and drive the design. In this part of the design process, explore as many avenues as possible.

Develop Concepts. Once you have outlined your ideas into a storyboard format, identify several more coherent concepts. Get your business partner or friend to help bounce ideas around. Like a doctor’s visit, getting a second opinion can never hurt.

Pare it Down to One Idea. As you refine your idea, continue to draw the infographic. You can use index cards with each idea if you are a hands-on type of person to easily move the various parts back and forth. At this point, you should begin to see the finished product coming into form.

Finalize. Put on the finishing touches with any last-minute tweaking. With infographics this usually means adding highlights/textures to really make the graphics pop.

Best Practices 

  • Always include your sources, including your own Web site URL, somewhere on the image.
  • Use HTML for people to embed the image while linking back to your site (SEO-friendly solution).
  • Host the infographic on your Web site. Have people link to it. Some blog platforms (WordPress.com) allow you to post an image without having to upload it using the link itself.
  • Make it snappy. Snapshots are punchier than super-long images that require scrolling.
  • Add every image to your Pinterest.com account.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum is a long-time consultant at Four Leaf Public Relations. When she’s not tweeting or posting an update, she’s thinking about her next blog contribution. Her motto? I blog, therefore I am. http://powerofslow.org

Four Leaf Public Relations Named New Agency for PLANET, The Professional Landcare Network

June 1, 2012 – Charlottesville, VA – Four Leaf Public Relations, a boutique communications practice, announces today that they have become the new public relations agency for PLANET, the professional landcare network, based in Herndon, Virginia. PLANET is the international association serving lawn care professionals, landscape management, design/build/installation professionals, irrigation & water management and interior plantscapers.

“We are looking forward to helping the general public better understand the modern professional lawn and landscape community and their place in environmental stewardship,” said Suzanne Henry. “They are responsible for much of our nation’s green areas, and we look forward to helping them boost the appreciation for those green spaces.”