Monday, August 27, 2007


I have had many discussions regarding perception and reality, but when it comes down to it, perception is reality. Regardless of what the facts are, if you can't overcome or change people's perception, then their perception is the reality you have to deal with.

A teacher once taught me that everyone's beliefs are tied to an experience that that individual has had along the way. How true that is! Think about it for a second. Why do you have certain opinions? I bet you can tie it back to some kind of experience you had that shaped that opinion or belief.

That's the issue that GM is facing right now. We are building safe, quality vehicles, but people don't believe that. Many people (including some members of my family) have had bad experiences with the quality of past GM vehicles and believe that the quality of GM vehicles is inferior to that of the foreign automakers. The fact is that GM has made leaps and bounds to improve quality to the point of meeting and surpassing many of the foreign cars. Despite this, however, people still perceive GM as having less than reliable vehicles and thus, this is the "reality" we now face. We need to work to create experiences for these consumers that will show (not just tell) them that we do have great quality cars and trucks.

As I constantly deal with helping to overcome people's incorrect perceptions, I have become aware that I sometimes may have incorrect perceptions as well. I have learned to not make blanket statements, but try to evaluate every issue, company and individual from an objective point of view. I can't change others' perceptions if I am guilty of holding on to unfounded perceptions myself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Advertising and PR in Social Media

There is a time and a place for everything.

This age-old adage has taken on new meaning for me as I continue to work in social media from a PR standpoint.

I have long been a proponent of keeping advertising and marketing out of social media. In fact, my feelings on this actually resulted in a blog post on PR Communications. John Cass, owner of PR Communications, developed an Aug. 2 post based off a previous comment I made in which I stated my belief that social media should only be a PR tool. After reading his response I started to rethink how marketing and advertising can use social media to further their business purposes. Again, however, there is a time and a place for everything.

I read an article in today's Wall Street Journal that helped me change my paradigm on advertising and marketing in social media. The focus of the article is how Facebook is preparing to implement an ad targeting campaign. As long as advertisers are open about advertising their products then I say more power to them, but when they get on Facebook or other social media avenues and pretend to engage in conversation to sell a product, I draw the line.

I should now restate my views on marketing and advertising in social media. They should be welcome to participate as long as they are open about what they are doing, but when it comes to communicating and building relationships, let us PR people take care of that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My 5 Minutes and 10 Seconds of Fame

Call me cynical, but I've never been a fan of graduations. I think it goes back to my high school graduation when some "important" person gave a speech in which he turned the word "graduation" into a 10-letter acronym. That's right, he had something to say about each letter in "graduation." It was very long, and I was very bored.

Anyway, I was adamant about not wanting to walk in my college graduation; much to the dismay of my wife and parents. The way I see it is you pay $40 bucks to rent a dress robe that you wear for two hours and sit through a painful reading of every graduates' name.

Ok, I know I sound extremely pessimistic, but rest assured that my attitude has changed. I decided to walk in graduation after receiving an invitation to speak on behalf of the PR department at convocation.

So, Friday morning at 8 a.m. I graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations from Brigham Young University. My speech went well and it was an honor to be asked to speak. I titled the speech "Relationships to Last a Lifetime: Embracing Your Inner PR." Lame title, I know, but I had submit the title of my speech before I'd even written it. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

All in all, graduation was a great experience for me and I'm glad I did it. I gave my five minute speech and had my five seconds of fame as I walked across the stage to get my diploma. I still, however, may need to be convinced to walk again in graduation when I get my MBA.

Here's some excerpts from the speech:

Public relations, or PR, has started to take on a negative connotation in today’s world. We often hear phrases like, “That’s some bad PR,” or “That company has a real PR problem.” Phrases like these and many others lead me to believe that public relations itself has, well, a PR problem.

In an attempt to understand public relations and how we can embrace that inner PR in all of us, we must first understand what public relations really is. To do so it may be helpful to outline what public relations is not. Public relations is not spin, free publicity, making your organization (or client) look good, nor is it lying. On a side note, just because these four items identify what public relations is not, this does not mean that there are not individuals out there doing these sorts of things. One would be hard-pressed to find a profession without its unethical practitioners.

Now that we understand what public relations is not, let us now identify what public relations really is, or at least should be. Laurie Wilson, seated on the stand today, defined public relations as “an organization’s efforts to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships in order to communicate and cooperate with the publics upon whom long-term success depends” (Strategic Communications Planning for Effective Public Reations and Marketing, 3).

Notice the words “mutually beneficial relationships,” “communicate and cooperate,” and “long-term success.” There is no room for spin, lying or free publicity in this definition.

Given this definition of PR as being the art of relationship building, it’s not hard to imagine then, that there is a little in PR in all of us. Art, music and, yes, even molecular biology students, all have a little PR within themselves. Let’s delve a little deeper into the various relationships many of us have established.

Prior to graduation today, I have gained a great deal of experience in public relations. In fact, my most recent internship with General Motors has now turned into a full-time job. I highlight this not to be boastful, but to show how my professors have helped me gain the experience I need.

During my time at BYU I have been blessed to have some absolutely wonderful teachers to guide and inspire me to be the very best PR professional (and individual) I can be. The enthusiasm and passion of my first public relations teacher, Mark Carpenter, inspired me to forgo the legal field and to pursue a career in public relations. Or there is Brad Rawlins, who taught me that humility is what makes a good employee, not a sense of arrogant entitlement. I attribute all the PR experience I have to the influence and guidance of these great professors. Because of the relationship I have cultivated with these professors, I feel comfortable asking for professional advice even after I graduate.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

PRSA to Explore Certification of Public Relations Professionals

A recent story on the PRSA Web site revealed that PRSA is organizing a task force to explore the feasibility of certifying public relations professionals. The organization offers an accrediation program (APR) that PR professionals can strive for, but nothing like certification currently exists for the PR professional.

I am in support of certifying PR professionals. PR is becoming a field that many think doesn't take much knowledge to work in. I recently went through the job application process and found a number of administrative assistant jobs whose duties included PR. Public relations should not be part of a list of job duties, it's a job in and of itself.

PR certification will help to ensure that PR regains and maintains credibility as a profession.

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


im·merse [i-murs]–verb (used with object), -mersed, -mers·ing.
  1. to involve deeply; absorb

  2. to embed; bury

Two of my fellow interns and I spent this past Tuesday and Wednesday completely immersed in car design at GM's Design Center in Warren, Mich. It was an exhausting, but enlightening two days.

Our assignment was to spend time with this year's GM Design Interns. GM has enlisted 18 young designers from 14 design schools to design a future Chevrolet car for the Gen-Y driver in 2012. We spent a few hours in their design studio talking with the student designers, sculptors (they all have to sculpt a clay model of their car), mechanical engineers and graphic designers, as well as getting familiar with each of their projects.

One of the more difficult parts of the assignment was writing the bios on each intern. We had to interview each of the interns to get a feel for their experiences at GM so far and what their future plans are. The interviewing was the easy part, the hard part was taking each interns' wealth of knowledge and experience and condensing it down into three or four paragraphs. This helped me learn how to communicate a powerful message in as few words as possible.

We also had to write a press release on each of the six cars being designed. This was difficult because not only did we have to describe each project in detail, but also try to highlight what each team was trying to convey with their car. I also learned how to coach some of the interns along as they tried to come up with a good quote for the release.

Creating three to four key messages for each project was interesting because we really had to take everything we learned about the projects and boil it down into just a few words. We learned that when creating messages it's important to use everyday language and not corporate speak.

Finally, we created a comprehensive communications plan surrounding the unveiling of these vehicles if they are to appear as concept cars at an auto show. Since the cars are targeted to Gen-Y we focused heavily on social media as one of our primary channels of communication. Some ideas we came up with were hosting a virtual auto show on Second Life, creating a Facebook application that would allow consumers to vote on their favorite car and creating a series of podcasts to highlight the design process from start to finish. We also came up with ideas to use traditional media and face-to-face communication on college campuses.

Having spent the last four months completely focused on social media, it was nice to enhance some of my other PR skills. Being immersed in a project like this was a tough, but very rewarding experience.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Bob Lutz Responds to Bloggers' Questions

Making the transition from speaking "to" audiences to speaking "with" them

This post was inspired by a post I just read over at Force for Good.

I realize that the focus of this blog has shifted from general public relations thoughts to more about the use of social media in public relations. I can't stress enough the value I see in the traditional public relations practices. I'm not going to sit here and tell the world that we need to stop the traditional PR methods and focus all our efforts on social media. In terms of media relations, social media serves to enhance our efforts with traditional media, not replace print or broadcast media.

Social media, however, goes beyond simply getting our messages out there, it actually engages the publics we are trying to build relationships with. As Jon Harmon writes:

"The role of the corporate communications professional is rapidly changing, responding to the sea changes all around us: the rise of consumer-generated social media, globalization, the incredible personalization of information technology, greater expectations on corporations for transparency and social responsibility, and increasingly inter-connected stakeholder groups including often-adversarial activists."

Harmon goes on to say:

"Corporations need their PR professionals to move beyond helping them communicate to stakeholders (the traditional role of corporate mouthpiece); they need guidance on how to engage in fluid conversations (that means listening as well as talking, respectfully understanding the new rules of engagement)."

I could not agree more. This is why public relations is so important. We need to show management how to communicate with their audiences, rather than to them. Our audiences have a voice and our anxious for us to hear it.

This is something my team at GM has really been focused on. For example, one of top executives, Bob Lutz, took some time last month to sit down in front of a camera and answer some of the questions bloggers have posted in the comments of GM's Fastlane Blog. This is a great example of using social media to speak with our publics. The video is posted in the post above.

Jon Harmon's post is excellent and I highly recommend reading it in its entierety here.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Video: RSS in Plain English

I'll admit, RSS (really simple syndication) never was "really simple" for me to understand. I've started to understand more as I've used it, but this video does a great job explaining it. Take a look.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How to use social networks

Man, I've been a blogging fool this week! I normally don't get this many posts in during one week.

Anyway, it's always nice to have someone validate thoughts you thought were just your own. I had this experience after reading a post on PR Communications. The author made a number of interesting points about how to best utilize social networks in building an effective social media community. While I agree with all his points, the following stood out most to me:

"No more marketing promotion - the biggest turn off in this type of community is a marketing shill. Trust comes from credibility and authenticity. Let your own people, and your developers criticize your efforts, if the criticism is correct, agree with them and move on, if wrong argue your case reasonably, remember everyone's goal is to produce the best software, if not all you are trying to do is sell something."

I recently had a similar experience creating some dialogue for GM on Facebook. Most of those who participated in the discussion were passionate, but respectful. When they criticized the company I would readily admit where we were wrong or correct anything erroneous. It turned out to be a very positive experience and a great conversation.

It's for this reason that I believe that social media should be a PR function only. Marketing, in my opinion, has no place in social networks. We build the relationships, then marketing can take it from there.