Informational Interview with Brett Pohlman

4 11 2009

In PR Practicum (PRCA 3711/4711) with Barbara Nixon, we were assigned to conduct an informational interview with a PR professional.  Using Twitter, I found Brett Pohlman who allowed me to ask him questions over the phone.

Sarah:  “What is a typical week like for you?”

Brett:  “For me, I manage a lot of social media for clients–their facebooks, twitter, and provide a lot of strategy to those clients.  The customers/consumers drive what I do on a regular basis”.  Brett explains how their largest client is Baskin Robbins.  “I manage their twitter and handle and respond to customers online, depending on what they tweet about and say about Baskin Robbins”  He also manages their facebook fanpage by putting out new products, pictures, and videos, as well as all kinds of new information.  He also works a lot with RFPs, which is a request for proposal.  “Anytime a client submits this, we decide if we want this client.  We research them and look at their brand as a whole and see what we can do with them in social media.  I research a lot and keep abreast of what is going on in social media.  One minute twitter is in, and the next minute it could be out.”  Brett explains how the industry is very fast paced and that you never know what is going to come next, so nothing is ever completely typical.

Sarah:  “Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.”

Brett: “Back in April, we had our 31 cent scoop night at Baskin Robbins.”    He explains how the store has over 12 or 1300 individually owned franchises throughout the country.  “For us to do a national program like this is really big because our computer systems aren’t all hooked together, and not all franchisees are hooked together”, says Brett.  They did a huge push with the mommy bloggers online.  “Since Baskin Robbins is such a family oriented,  ‘let’s go with your kids to have ice cream’ kind of brand, families and moms are a huge target audience and mommy bloggers so active on facebook and twitter now.  They embraced it, shared it on their networks, and at the heat of the moment, right there leading up to the night, we had just about 20 tweets per minute that were going on about Baskin Robbins.”

Sarah:  “How important is writing in your career?”

93088512 Brett:  “Extremely important.  I wish I would have payed a lot more attention in my pr writing course.  The pr writing course, for me, was one of the hardest, but I learned the most out of that course.  In English classes and your freshman and sophomore years, you’re trying to write a lot of wordy sentences.  Pr writing is completely the opposite—straight and to the point with no excess information.  To be able to do that very well will keep you employable for the rest of your life.  There is always a need for good writers.  I can’t tell you how much we end up giving to a copywriter, or someone that does it full time, vs. keeping it in house.  And yeah we’re good writers, but writing also takes up a lot of time….if you can write, you will get hired.  It’s pretty much a done deal.”

Sarah:  “What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?”

Brett:  1.)  “Be involved with social networks as much as you can; that is literally the future.  My professor at auburn was always telling us that.  Within the last 2 year, things have changed so much- take Twitter, for example.  Almost everyone is on it or at least trying it out.”

2.) ” Try to think outside the box.  I know that’s not always easy, but too often students will just regurgitate what their professors say to them or how their professors teach them.  We want you to go further than that and really put in that extra thought.  Even if you’re blogging for a class, put in that extra information.  When you can drop names and start reading and showing that you’re involved, that’s when we really start to look at you like a new hire.  You’re putting your own opinion in that.”

3.)  “Whatever you do, do it very passionately.  I think that you can do whatever kind of pr genre that you want, and I think that is really easy…especially in pr and in social media.  It’s really easy to start writing a blog, or becoming an expert in a field of what you like.  Take fashion for example, if you like fashion, you can become an expert in that field.  There is enough social media within the fashion industry itself to learn everything you need to know.”

Sarah:  “What do you do to keep current in your industry?”

Brett:  “Get outside of the office.  Too often I just work so hard and so much that to get outside of the office space and to get around to other thinkers is probably the best thing. In Boston we are very lucky because we have lots of tweet ups around the city about people in social media.  I have a great arsenal of social media people within the city and to hear them speak and go to those events is great.  Also, read blogs—all the big pr blogs.”

Sarah:  “What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?”

Brett:  ““The strategy part of pr is what I really didn’t understand before I left college.  I was very quick to regurgitate what Robert French was saying in my social media class and I was really good with keeping up with blogs and videos. But when you’re put in a real world situation, it’s really hard to start thinking of ideas about what companies should be doing.  Be able to think strategically, that’s what will set you apart.”

Sarah:  “What has surprised you the most about working with PR?

Brett: “For me, in my particular situation, I have been surprised at how much I have been able to do.  I could have gotten a job where I sit in a cubicle and not have moved very far and not progressed as much.  However, I went to a medium sized firm that’s going on its 30th year next year.  Fortunately, my boss loves to help young people out and I got very lucky that I found this firm here in Boston.  I think if you push people and you push your bosses and do a great job, they are going to reward you with getting more responsibility. In this economy, you really have to work hard.”

Sarah:  “What professional organizations are you involved in?”

Brett: In school I was in PRCA and also became an officer.  I also did a lot with UPC and was also involved in student government.  Right now I go to a lot of social media breakfasts on a regular and am also involved with the Social Media Club, and the Advertising Club of Boston.


Top 10 Things I Have Learned in PRCA 2330

4 05 2009
Top 10 Things I learned

View more presentations from Sarah Farmer.
This is a powerpoint slide of the top 10 things I have learned in Barbara Nixon’s PRCA 2330 class.  (Intro to PR).

Chapter 9: Public Opinion and Persuasion

19 04 2009

(Notes from Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics 9th Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron)

“The following statements appear in public opinion research:”

  1. Public opinion is the collective expression of opinion of many individuals bound into a group by common aims, aspirations, needs, and ideals.
  2. People who are interested or who have a vested or self-interest in an issue-or who can be affected by the outcome of the issue-form public opinion on that particular item
  3. Psychologically, opinion basically is determined by self-interest.  Events, words, or other stimuli affect opinion only insofar as their relationship to self-interest or a general concern is apparent.
  4. Opinion does not remain aroused for a long period of time unless people feel their self-interest is acutely involved or unless opinion-aroused by words-is sustained by events
  5. Once self-interest is involved, opinion is not easily changed.
  6. Research studies also emphasize the importance of events in the formation of public opinion.  Social scientists, for example, have made the following generalizations.
  7. Opinion is highly sensitive to events that have an impact on the public at large or a particular segment of the public.
  8. By and large, public opinion does not anticipate events.  It only reacts to them
  9. Events trigger formation of public opinion.  unless people are aware of an issue, they are not likely to be concerned or have an opinion.  Awareness and discussion lead to crystallizing of opinions and often a consensus among the public.
  10. Events of unusual magnitude are likely to swing public opinion temporarily from one extreme to another.

•  Opinion leaders:  people who are knowledgeable and articulate about specific issues.  Sociologists describe them as:

  1. highly interest in a subject or issue
  2. better informed on an issue than the average person
  3. avid consumers of mass media
  4. early adopters of new ideas
  5. good organizers who can get other people to take action

•  There are two types of leaders:  formal opinion leaders and informal opinion leaders.

•  Formal opinion leaders:  “So called because of their positions as elected officials, presidents of companies, or heads of membership groups.”  These leaders are often asked for information from reporters.  They are also called power leaders.

•  Informal opinion leaders:  People who have influence on their peers.

 “People seldom make a decision on their own but are influenced by their friends, parents, educators, supervisors, church leaders, physicians, public officials, movie stars or singers, and the media in general.”

•  “Influentials, those whom other people seek out for advice, fit the profile of:”

  1. being active in the community
  2. having a college degree
  3. earning relatively high incomes
  4. regularly reading newspapers and magazines
  5. actively participating in recreational activities
  6. showing environmental concern by recycling

Agenda-setting theory– created by Max McCombs and Don Shaw.  “media sets the agenda for public discussion”

Media-Dependency Theory– “media can have a “moderate” or even “powerful” effect on the formation of opinions and attitudes.

Framing Theory– “it is important to understand the ways in which journalistic framing of issues occurs because such framing impacts public understanding and, consequently, policy formation.”

Conflict Theory– Morton Deutsch and Peter Colman  say that conflict in the public arena can be a constructive process that builds toward consensus.


•  Richard Perloff, author of The Dynamics of Persuasion, says that “persuasion is an activity or process in which a communicator attempts to induce a change in the belief, attitude, or behavior of another person or group of persons through the transmission of a message in a context in which the persuadee has some degree of free choice.”

Persuasion is used to change or neutralize hostile opinions, crystallize latent opinions and positive attitudes, and conserve favorable opinions.

Factors in Persuasive Communication

•  Audience Analysis:  “Knowledge of audience characteristics such as beliefs, attitudes, concerneds, and lifestyles is an essential part of persuasion.”

•  Source Credibility:  “A message is more believable to the intended audience if the source has credibility.”

                Source credibility has 3 factors:

  1. Expertise- “Does the audience perceive the person as an expert on the subject?”
  2. Sincerity- “Does the person come across as believing what he or she is saying?”
  3. Charisma- “Is the individual attractive, self-assured, and articulate, projecting an image of competence and leadership?”

                Problems with celebrities:

        There are downsides to using celebrities such as there can be so many endorsements that the public forgets the company that the celebrity is working for.  A second problem is the overexposure and the third is “when an endorser’s actions undercut the product or service.”

•  Appeal to Self-Interest

“Sociologist Harold Lasswell says that people are motivated by 8 basic appeals”:

  1. power
  2. respect
  3. well-being
  4. affection
  5. wealth
  6. skill
  7. enlightenment
  8. physical and mental vitality

•  Clarity of Message:  You should ask 2 questions- “What do I want the audience to do with the message?” and “Will the audience understand the message?”

•  Timing and Context: “A message is more persuasive if environmental factors support the message or if the message is received wtihin the context of other messages and situations with which the individual is familiar.”

•  Audience Participation:  Is influenced by attitude and reinforcement of beliefs.

•  Suggestions of Actions:  “A principle of persuasion is that people endorse ideas only if they are accompanied by a proposed action from the sponsor.”

•  Content and Structure of Message:  Good communicators use drama, statistics, surveys and polls, examples, testimonials, mass media endorsements, and emotional appeas.

•  Persuasive Speaking:  “psychologists have found that successful speaks use several persuasion techniques.”…

          They start with points the audience agrees with, they give choices that force the audience to choose between A and B, they get a commitment for some action on the part of the receiver, and they ask for more and settle for less.

propagandaApproaches used for propaganda:

  • Plain folks- This is where you humble yourself to an average citizen.
  • Testimonial- You give a testimony about the product or service.
  • Bandwagon- Gives the idea that the product has overwhelming support and that everyone wants it.
  • Card stacking- collection of facts and data that build an overwhelming case on one side of the issue.
  • Transfer- associating a person, product or organization that has high status to one side of an issue.
  • Glittering generalities- Associating the issue with ideals such as freedom, justice, democracy, and America.

Chapter 8: Evaluation

18 04 2009

(Notes from Public Relations:  Strategies and Tactics 9th Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron)

•  Professor James Bissland defines evaluation as, “the systematic assessment of a program and its results.  It is a means for practitioners to offer accountability to clients-and to themselves.”

Frank Wylie summarizes his idea on evaluation:

“We are talking about an orderly evaluation of our profress in attaining the specific objectives of our public relations plan.  We are learning what we did right, what we did wrong, how much profress we’ve made and, most importantly, how we can do it better next time.”

•  Before you begin your evaluation, you must have objectives.  Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Was the activity or program adequately planned?
  • Did the recipients of the message understand it?
  • How could the program strategy have been more effective?
  • Were all primary and secondary audiences reached?
  • Was the desired organizational objective achieved?
  • What unforeseen circumstances affected the success o the program or activity?
  • Did the program or activity fall within the budget set for it?
  • What steps can be taken to improve the success of similar future activities?

Most widely used methods for evaluating public relations efforts:

  1. Measurement of production
  2. Message exposure
  3. Audience awareness
  4. Audience attitudes
  5. Audience action
  • Measurement of Media Exposure

                -Media Impressions:  The number of how many people have been exposed to a message.

                -Hits on the Internet:  How many people search a company/organization

               – Advertising Equivalency (AVE):  Calculating the value of the message exposure.  “This is done by converting stories in the regular news                                                                                         columns or on the air into equivalent advertising costs.”

             –  Systematic Tracking:  “Computer software and databases can now be used to analyze the content of media placements by such variables as                                                                market penetration, type of publication, tone of coverage, sources quoted, and mention of key copy points.

              -Requests and 800 Numbers:  To compile the number of requests for more information.  (Often they give an 800 #).

             – Return on Investment (ROI):  To determine the cost of reaching each member of the audience.

              -Audience Attendance:  Counting attendance at events.

•  During evaluation, the measurement of audience awareness, attitude, and action are extremely important.

•  Other forms of measurement in public relations:

  1. Communication Audits:  “The entire communication activity of an organization should be evaluated at least once a year to make sure that every primary and seconday public is receiving appropriate messages.”                                                                                                                                         –  Communication Audits would include:
  • “Analysis of all communication activities-newsletters, memos, policy statements, brochures, annual reports, position papers, mailing lists, media contacts, personel forms, graphics, logos, advertising, receptionist contacts, waiting lounges for visitors, and so on.”
  • “Informal interviews with rank-and-file employees and middle management and top executives.”
  • “Informal interviews with community leadres, media gatekeepers, consumers, distributors, and other influential persons in the industry.”

Ending Another Year at Georgia Southern

12 04 2009

Even though ending a school year is very exciting, for me, it is also very emotional.  Each semester flies by faster than the other just as my parents used to tell me it would.  I have made tons of wonderful friends-some of who have transfered and others, well…we have just drifted apart.  In any case, so far I have had an amazing experience here at this University.  I have grown up so quick and learned so many new things.  

It has been hard for me to choose a major.  I was originally going to enroll to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and pursue a degree in Interior Design.  However, I ended up changing my mind and coming to Georgia Southern on the off chance that I might not want to graduate with an art degree.  When I got here, my major was simply art because I still was not sure what I wanted to do.  I then changed it to graphic design, nursing, and then settled into public relations.  I spent many hours at the William’s Center trying to figure out what major would be best for me.  I sat in their small library full of books about majors and researched tons of majors I felt like I might be interested in.  I also took a test telling me which direction I should steer towards as far as majors go.  

One day, when i was sitting in the William Center researching majors, I stumbled upon Public Relations.  Everything that the book mentioned seemed like things that I was completely interested in.  So right away I filled out a form to change my major to public relations.  I love how many things to do involving public relations when you get out of college.  I am extremely happy with my major of choice and cannot wait to graduate and begin to experience the work field.

Even though I am extremely happy and cannot wait to get out there, I also am slightly hesitant.  Even though I have done a considerable amount of maturing since freshman year, I still have a lot to go.  But this is a part of life and we all have to make that big leap.  The only thing to is to simply use the feeling of angst and add it to the feeling of determination.  My goal is to have a great last year at Georgia Southern and do amazing in my classes and graduate with as many volunteer hours as I possibly can.  As everyone else, i also want to land a great internship and a wonderful job either in Savannah or Atlanta and move my way up from there.  My ultimate goal is to work at a PR firm in either New York or Los Angeles.  It is a big goal, but I know I can do it.

I cannot wait to move on to exciting and wonderful things in my future.2557709272_f837bfbcaf-1

Interview of a PR Professional

8 04 2009

I contacted Brian Carter through Twitter for this assignment.  briancarter_firesidechat

First I asked him, “What is a typical week like for you?”

  • “I work at an agency (Fuel Interactive;, so I do a combination of internal meetings, client meetings, management, blogging, and twittering. All my PR work is in social media, so I do a lot to network, maintain relationships, do favors for people, get involved in causes, and so on.”

What is one project you have worked on throughout your career that you are especially proud of?

  • “I’m not the typical PR pro- the PR I do is for my own company and for tourist destinations- I think my best work in that is ahead. But I am also starting a project doing PR for, a unique new tool we created for getting more marketing and PR reach via Twitter- and that’s something I’m really proud of already, and will be a PR and marketing effort that doesn’t really have an established roadmap. It’s a startup, tech-based, but it requires the buy-in of social media rock stars and companies that are just barely starting to grasp how to do social media.”
 How important is writing for you in your career?
  • “Critical. Essential. PR and marketing ARE the written word.  I think it’s important to know how to write in many styles for many audiences, and not be personally hand-cuffed to any one of them so that you can use the style that best fits the project.”
 What 3 tips would you give someone just starting out in PR?
  • “Network on twitter with journalists and PR pros. Blog so you understand the blogosphere and bloggers, or you’ll never be able to approach them effectively. Learn some SEO basics so that your press releases get better search position.”
 What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?
  • “LOL not much- I do read a lot of online columns and posts, and I do my work. We are always pushing our clients, and some of our clients push us, to be on the cutting edge of PR, social media, and marketing. Also, we work with a sister agency (The Brandon Agency; and I talk with their head of PR, Erin Barrett as often as I can. She has more grounding in traditional PR, and I’m more on the social media side.”
 Did your education prepare you for your job in PR?
  • “Most of what I do is self-taught, because there still aren’t schools or programs at traditional schools for it. And staying current by reading blogs is mandatory.  By the time it’s codified enough to be taught in school, it will be basics that don’t give you a huge advantage. The winners are on the cutting edge, both reading about and creating the newest techniques.”
 briface41When your industry is hiring for an entry-level PR position, what makes a candidate stand out?
  • “We don’t hire that specifically. We hire people who can learn SEO, PPC, and social media.  That requires communication, language, writing, math, marketing, diligence, energy, and discipline.  We don’t get perfect people.  There aren’t any graduates trained in this.  We hire on potential and talent and character.  And then we shape those people into rock stars.”

What has surprised you the most about working in PR?

  • “That I am working in PR. LOL. The industry, as far as I can see from my outsider’s perspective, is changing a lot, and I’m not sure any of us have a real authoritative roadmap yet of the new way things work.”

PR in Times of Crisis

7 04 2009

PRCA class on May 6th


4 Types of Crises:

  • Meteor- When something pops in and you had no idea it could or would possibly happen.  
  • Predator- This is where someone else causes your crisis for you.
  • Breakdown-  Where everything falls apart quickly.
  • Lingering- A crisis that does not ever really go away.  

One of the best things to do is to PLAN.

You might even want a pessimist on your team because they think of every negative situation that could happen–it prepares you for the worst.

In Barbara Nixon’s slideshow on her blog, she has a list of 7 Must Have Elements in Your Crisis Communication Kit.  

She also talks about Environmental scans.  This is where you search on google, twitter, or other websites like CustomScoop and search any negative comments that anyone has said about your business.

Basically, not every Public Relations situation is going to be easy…there are many situations that are difficult to deal with.  The best thing to do is understand how to deal with these circumstances beforehand.