Sunday, 8 January 2012

Meet and Greet-That Vital First Step

After applying for a public relations position at The Crane Residential Resort a few months ago, I was given the opportunity to meet with Ms. Joanna Robinson to be interviewed for a social media position. Joanna, who is the Director of Marketing, made the transition from marketing in Wines and Spirits into the Hotel Industry. She explained to me that working at The Crane has been an entirely different experience; one that she truly enjoys, partly because of the friendly people she encounters on a daily basis.

When she questioned me about my interest in working with the Crane, I explained to her that it is one of Barbados’ highest ranked hotels/resorts in my mind. When I personally think of top-class hotels/resorts, I immediately think of The Crane. So when she questioned my motive for applying there, it was easy for me to tell her that I applied because it is an organisation whose class and quality I admire.

Despite my nervous feelings walking into the interview, Joanna helped to ease my nerves as she questioned me about my time spent living in England. She seemed extremely interested and equally impressed as I spoke about my cultural experiences, and even more so, my work experience placement. We spoke at length about the lack of importance placed on public relations and its practice here in Barbados in compared to its upsurge in England. This sparked her curiosity about some of my duties during my placement and led to some in-depth conversation about some of the projects I worked on.

Taking into the account the magnitude of The Crane as an organisation, I assumed that their marketing and public relations contingent was vast, and therefore had to question her about the need to fill such a post. She explained that although there were several persons working under the marketing umbrella, none of them could really give the amount of attention required to effectively manage the social media aspect. She also highlighted that although they do outsource some of their public relations staff and had public relations connections within the United States and Britain, there was still a void with regards to social media here in Barbados.

She went on to give me some background information on The Crane, where she identified them as being into development and property sales as opposed to simply renting out hotel rooms. The economical feasibility of purchasing Crane property was a major factor in my mind, as it can be used in the same way as a timeshare property but with ten times more benefits.

As she spoke about what would be required of a social media coordinator and about the advantages of owning Crane property, I began to feel even more compelled to work with such an organisation. And knowing how much I love a challenge, it made me realise that this would be the perfect position for me.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Tug-of-war...Public Relations should be given respect as a profession

I made a personal choice when I decided to pursue a master’s degree to study public relations over marketing, and although a vast majority don’t see the difference, I know the difference and every other person who is passionate about this field knows the difference.

I must say that even though I chose public relations over marketing, that does not mean that I don’t respect marketing as a separate profession, it simply means that I am more inclined to practice public relations.

However, of all the marketing professionals that I have met, only about two respect public relations as a profession in itself. They always seem quick to point out that it is “controversially” a tiny subset of marketing that really doesn’t deserve any real status.

Honestly, I am getting tired of hearing: “Is that just like marketing”, when I tell people what I am studying. And unfortunately, this is the general consensus on public relations.

Nevertheless, this has not prevented the growth and expansion of public relations practice: with thousands of established public relations agencies and practitioners existing in the UK alone.

But why is public relations seen in this way? Is the practice of public relations fully understood?

Does the public know how many of the stories in the newspaper are taken from well-written press releases issued from public relations officers? Do they know how many times their way of thinking has been influenced by the hard work of a public relations practitioner? It is an indefinable number, so let's follow a campaign that we all know.

Think about the concept of recycling and its recent history. Vast amounts of people now recycle and the overall importance of recycling or being eco-friendly is well-known, but how do you think those ideas were made reality? A well-prepared public relations campaign that stretched over a number of years!

Someone had an idea, and through good communications management, those ideas were filtered to the press, posters were made, flyers were distributed, press releases written, announcements were made... and the list goes on!

However, the general public is unaware of the behind-the scenes activity needed to distribute this information. They simply receive the message. All of that is PR!

There are so many public relations practitioners out there who genuinely get excited and are passionate about their work, and I have been privileged to come into contact with a few of them, and this has sparked not only an interest but an eagerness to fully immerse myself in the field.

I am personally excited about the field of public relations, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging and exciting career choice.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Life On Mars-My public relations work experience

After completing a four week work placement at the Phoenix Partners, an integrated marketing and communications company, I can only describe my experience as unforgettable.

My work placement, which was to be completed as one of my course requirements, has given me an in-depth understanding of the life of a Public Relations Officer. I was fully integrated into the day-to-day duties of the Public Relations Manager as well as other office duties, but as a Barbadian working for the first time in the UK, it was somewhat of a culture shock.

In terms of experiences that pertained to my course of study, there were several, but the experiences outside of that can’t go without mention.

When I started on the 12th January, I honestly didn’t expect to really be involved in anything significant. I thought it would more have been an initiation where I would be introduced to staff and projects they were working on – generally given some time to settle (especially since I was extremely jet lag as I had just got back from Barbados the night before).

However, on my first day I was given instructions to become fully acquainted with two of their biggest clients via internet, brochures, newspaper articles or through magazine clippings they had collected. Surprisingly, I was then asked for my input into a proposal for one of the clients, details of which I then had to draft into an e-mail for the client’s perusal.

This was followed by phone-calls, the drafting of a press release, a contribution to website content and a very interactive staff meeting.

So after this first day, I decided to prepare myself for extremely busy days, because after all, if the first day was that busy, shouldn’t I expect the same or more for the days to follow?

However, the days following were a mixture of calm and flurry, with some days being much more exciting than others. I was involved in drafting e-mails, contributions to newsletters, compiling media lists, drafting blog posts and of course – press releases.

During my time there, my writing skills have definitely improved, especially after being asked to write, re-write and redraft press releases. That was honestly the hardest part of my placement and at some points it was quite discouraging. In the end, I definitely improved, but it took some time.

Furthermore, I am proud to say that two of my press releases were actually in the Leicester Mercury.

Other than that, I accompanied the PR Manager to a networking meeting as well as a meeting with the editor of a local newspaper. In addition, I was involved in four mail-outs where I folded, stuffed, stuck and packed invitations, letters and newsletters.

Looking at another side of things, I also had to get accustomed to the culture of the organisation: whether it was the constant smoke breaks outside the building or the fact that every staff member makes the tea at least twice during one week. I was even reprimanded at one point for making a single cup of tea for myself.

Overall, I found that everyone worked really well together and everyone always seemed willing to be involved in any task, even the daunting job of mail-outs. At staff meetings the Managing Director was always eager to get input from all staff members and she never hesitated to point out the importance of having a mixture of employees from differing backgrounds to make contributions.

I truly believe that this work placement not only gave me insight into the world of public relations but was also a valuable experience in terms of the culture of a UK organisation.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Drink till your heart’s content- apparently!

I heard on the news that there is a new plan to cut binge-drinking and reduce the amount of drunks lingering around town in the early hours of the morning. Apparently it involves eliminating ‘all you can drink’ offers, drinking games as well as free drinks promotions aimed at women. In addition, pubs and clubs will have to provide free tap water to customers as well as provide an option of using a large or small glass.

Some of these changes are to come into effect in April and others in October.

However, I personally don’t believe that any of these measures will prevent persons from drinking to the point of complete and total intoxication.

Drinking lifestyle
I have discovered since moving here, that alcohol is the focal point of a night out, especially for students. First they pre-drink before they leave home, and these drinks are bought from the local supermarket at a very cheap price, and then they will go to a bar before going to the club for another round of drinks. So by the time they get to the club, they have already consumed a substantial amount of alcohol, and will not hesitate to purchase drinks at the bar regardless of the price. Not to mention the peer pressure they face from other heavy drinkers.

So honestly, eliminating drink offers and drinking games will have little or no effect on the amount of drunken persons around. People will drink if they want to, and just because water is on offer at a bar, that doesn’t mean anyone has to request it.

And although it is illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is drunk, do you think bartenders really check to see if the person they are serving is drunk? Unless the person is completely intoxicated, I think that the constant flow of customers at a bar would prevent the bartender from spotting the drunks. His/her job is to serve as many drinks as possible to as many customers as possible, not spot drunks.

Police support
The police are fully supporting this new plan in an effort to curb alcohol-related crime. Last year alcohol-related crime cost the UK £7.3bn. This is because people become irresponsible when they are under the influence and officers have to spend too much of their time trying to control the confusion caused by drunks.

In my opinion, some of the only options for lowering the high number of binge-drinkers are raising the drinking age to 21/22 when people can be more responsible and banning supermarket bulk buys.

However, I don’t believe that this practice of total inebriation will stop anytime soon. It has become too important to the lifestyle of many people and unfortunately some people will continue this as they mature.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

More to life than iPods and Facebook- Are children caught in the madness?

After reading an article in the Leicester Mercury, I felt the need to add my views to this opinion.

The article was talking about the differences between growing up 10-20 years ago and growing up in this day and age. The main difference in my opinion is all the technological advancements.

As a 24-year-old, I have come across some stark differences between childhood experiences now and those that were characteristic of mine 10-15 years ago.

I grew up going to school and looking forward to lunch and break time so that I could run around with my friends and play tag. Hand games and jumping rope were also some of the highlights. We would literally rush through our lunch or in some cases, not eat it at all, just so we can physically play. Any conversations we stopped to have were generally about visiting each others homes on weekends, an extra-curicular activity we shared after school or something that happened in class.

Today however, things have changed. With the increase in technology, children spend lunch-time texting each other, listening to music on their iPods or playing games on their Nintendo DS.

In addition, recreational activities at home no longer involve playing house with dolls, fixing puzzles or board games like monopoly. Most girls today seem to love Hannah Montana and spend their time trying to be her carbon copy. And this involves playing her dance move games on Nintendo Wii, being part of her ‘learn-to-sing’ sessions on her website or learning to strike her poses on youtube. These are the things that appeal to children today. But has technology for children gone too far? Are children being deprived of important childhood developmental lessons because of this new technology?

Children today have fallen victim to the texting craze as well as instant messaging. Most of them have probably never even written a letter, bought a stamp or know where the post office is.

Facebook friends or enemies?
And of course, there is facebook. Unfortunately, children as young as 8-years-old now have a facebook account. Yes, I said 8-years-old! And this has caused more harm than good.

Back in my day when my mate and I couldn’t get along, we would argue at school or give each other dirty looks, but one of us would eventually apologise and we would be friends again by the end of the week. However, with the use of facebook, upsets and fall-outs between friends grow to mammoth proportions, and subsequently, more and more children end up being bullied on facebook. They get nasty messages on their wall and all of their secrets are exposed. And because of the networking nature of facebook, these upsets last far longer and then no apology could possibly fix it.

Expensive technological gifts for children?

In my opinion, children are no longer given the opportunity to be children. At Christmas, all I wanted was a nice toy/doll. Today Xmas gift requests range from things like an iPod or blackberry to a Nintendo Wii. What would a seven-year-old do with a blackberry?

I personally believe that all of this is too much. I think children are literally missing out on the best part of growing up with the use of all this technology.

If you ask me, children should be taken back to being children again, and reminded that they have plenty of time to grow up!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Online support for the people of Haiti

As you all would have heard, Haiti was victim to a vicious earthquake on Tuesday 13th January. This was said to be the strongest earthquake in more than two centuries to rock this Caribbean nation. Words cannot begin to describe the shock in the wake of last week’s tragic events in Haiti.

Across Haiti, dozens of buildings have collapsed and thousands of people are feared dead. This catastrophe has left residents shaken, with some unable to cope.

Moreover, some Haitians have expressed feeling very abandoned and alone at the moment, which is mainly due to a lack of aid supplies. The rescue effort and the promised help are now desperately needed, but so far the fresh supplies of water, food and medical equipment are still in short supply.

Little do they know that there are major relief efforts in progress. But I am not only referring to those massive relief efforts by governments and international authorities, but I must highlight the massive efforts being launched on social media sites like facebook and twitter, to name a few.

Social media platforms have been overloaded since last Tuesday with some groups formed to make donations of food and clothes, others to help overseas family members searching for missing relatives and some for condolence postings. These groups also provide members with up-to-date information on the situation in Haiti. For example:

Unfortunately, communication is down in Haiti, so residents would not be privy to these efforts, but they will be extremely beneficial to them later. So as much as residents may feel alone at this point, they are being heavily supported!
I would suggest paying a visit to these groups to see the worldwide concern and support for victims of this tragedy. It reinforces the practicality of using social media platforms in wide scale public relations plans. Furthermore, it demonstrates the rapid acceleration of social media as a fundamental communications strategy in any situation.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Personality or Education? Which is actually necessary to practice public relations?

In completing some research for an assignment on the professionalisation of public relations,I discovered that some of the conditions for achieving professional status include a code of ethics, an overall governing body as well as standard educational criteria to enter the field.

However, Jacquie L'Etang indicated in Robert Heath's Handbook of Public Relations that there are arguments to suggest that there is no specialist knowledge required to work in public relations, but rather a specific set of personal skills and qualities. Jacquie L'Etang lists some of these qualities as “creativity, lateral thinking, flexibility, articulateness, persuasiveness, common sense, and integrity.”

And although the public relations profession has evolved, with more and more practitioners becoming suitably qualified through undergraduate degree programmes, postgraduate degrees and others, these specific personality traits still remain an acceptable ticket into the field.

Furthermore, after speaking to several persons here in Barbados who work in public relations, I have discovered that many of the veterans do not possess any particular qualifications, but instead, they have a passion for the field.

They either started their business or began their career because of a love for the practice and never believed that there were any specific educational requirements. However, most of the younger persons employed in these organisations are well- qualified, and have completed degree programmes and even vocational programmes. They explained that academic qualifications were pursued as a result of an interest in the field, and believe that simply possessing characteristics such as those mentioned above was not sufficient.

Personally, I agree that specific personality traits are a necessary element of a successful public relations practitioner but I believe that these should be supplemented by specific academic qualifications. Not only would it bring public relations a step closer to achieving full professional status, but it would also ensure that well-trained individuals enter the field and enhance public relation's reputation.