In the Loop
Crossroads of PR, Integrated Marketing and the Midwest.
Client-Side vs. Agency Internships: Learning the PR Ropes by Ginny Woodcock
For some, the term “intern” used to (or still does) bring to mind responsibilities such as getting coffee or making copies. Fortunately, internships now greatly supplement a college degree and have evolved into a much more valuable experience than performing trivial assignments.
Before even applying for an internship, future PR interns must ask themselves an essential question: client-side or agency? For me, the answer wasn’t so simple. Attending college in a small town limited my ability to experience PR in an agency setting, so client-side PR became the building block of my career. Throughout all three of my client-side internships, I learned highly valuable skills including writing press releases, building media lists, and shooting/editing promotional videos. In addition to these responsibilities, my internships heavily focused on planning and marketing events, which I now consider to be one of the key responsibilities of in-house internships.
Upon graduation, I decided it was time to branch out and experience agency PR. After interning with MSL for a few months, I’ve come to realize that client-side and agency internships are quite similar in terms of the bottom-line goal, but of course the assigned tasks differ. In my opinion, agencies seem to place more focus on media pitching and monitoring, whereas in-house PR teams concentrate more on events and partnerships. Planning events proved to be an informative and rewarding experience, because it allowed me to see my labor come to fruition. As an in-house PR intern, it is easy to recognize the overall impact your work has on the company.
Another difference (one that comes with pros and cons) is team size. An in-house PR team can be anywhere from one person to several people depending on the company, which gives interns the ability to work closely with the internal departments. On the agency-side, some firms are very large, so teams may be comprised of multiple people. Some may see this as a disadvantage, but in my opinion, agencies give interns the opportunity to interact with and seek advice from numerous professionals and mentors with different backgrounds.
Even though I’ve only been with MSL for a few months, I can honestly say I think I’ve found my home in agency-setting PR. The strong focus on media coverage, both traditional and digital, definitely draws me to agency PR, but when it comes down to it, I am deeply intrigued by the fast-paced, unpredictable nature of an agency! Deadline-sensitive, client-pleasing tasks keep me on my toes and drive me to produce the best work possible. I have found that dealing with multiple accounts and a wide range of clients keeps work fresh and engaging, and it gives you the opportunity to expand your knowledge of various industries. Not to mention I have some pretty cool co-workers who have made my short time here a step above awesome!
Last month, Laura Chavoen, our senior vice president of digital strategy, spoke at the 2011 PRSA International Conference in Orlando. Her topic was “A Tailored Approach to Audience Fragmentation.”
In her session, Laura discussed how social media is causing many marketing companies to adopt a PR planning model to ensure that programs and campaigns are tailored to the right target audience. She also shared her thoughts on using new tools that public relations practitioners can use for monitoring and pinpointing audiences. Below is a video of a segment of her presentation.
Thanks to the PRSA for inviting MSL Chicago to particpate in the 2011 International Conference!
Higher Education and Social Influence: Where Does Your School Rank? by Nancy Brennan
In the face of budget cuts, lower endowments and a fiercely competitive market for talent, colleges and universities are coming to terms with the need to be creative in their efforts to attract the best and brightest in students and faculty. At the same time, they know they’ve got to focus on building stronger relationships with virtually anyone who can positively impact their balance sheet — alumni, philanthropists, government, etc. So what’s the new metric for marketing success that everyone is focused on? “Engagement.”
Many schools (and major brands) are still trying to navigate social engagement and influence online—especially as these communications continue to evolve. At MSL, we’re constantly using new tools and techniques to help our higher education clients listen and analyze the conversation.
The team at MSL Chicago took a quick look at which universities and colleges are doing the best job of engagement online. The metric we used was the institution’s overall online influence, as measured by a Klout score. (Klout uses data from social networks to measure the influence of the institution by looking at how often and how broadly the content created drives action). The results are interesting:
What’s most interesting to us is the mix of schools with top scores — you’ve got top Big Ten universities with huge and passionate alumni bases focused on athletics and there are also prestige academic powers like Harvard mixed in the group. The schools are located in virtually every geographic area and they feature different areas of academic strength— they attract entirely different student bodies.
As a marketer, my big takeaway is that there isn’t a “winning” formula that helps spark engagement. It goes back to defining your brand — finding the differentiators and making that brand come to life for all those you want to reach.
What do you see in the results?
2012 PR Planning: Learning From the Past, Building on 2011 Momentum by Diana Rostkowski
With the fall in full swing, 2011 will soon be drawing to a close. PR agencies like MSL Chicago are developing and evaluating their 2012 PR plans with clients in addition to speaking with new companies about their public relations needs. In planning for 2012, agencies must bring the brightest ideas to the table, especially for clients who want to stand out and excel among their competition. MSL Chicago is currently working with our clients to develop powerful campaigns, and build upon existing partnerships to engage customers and consumers in real time. A key part of our planning is leveraging key learnings from the past year.
For example, MSL Chicago attended BlogHer in San Diego this year on behalf of a healthy food client. The expo included thousands of female bloggers who circle a convention hall to hear about trends and the latest and greatest of various products and services. Our consumer team knew from years past that we needed a different strategy to stand out among the other brands at the conference The simple solution: pulling the client out of the expo hall and into a suite across the street.
After sore feet from long weekend hours at the expo hall, being pitched in both ears, and pulled in various directions, these “BlogHers” needed some R&R. The client therefore held a “Refuel and Recharge” suite. This gave bloggers a healthy snack, a make-up touch-up and a hand paraffin treatment, all while sitting on a massage chair. Simultaneously, they learned all about the health benefits and messaging of our client’s brand, and tweeted along the way.
With 2012 planning underway, it’s important to take key learnings from the year prior and create an overall strategic PR plan—taking the best programs and results and using those as a precedence with creative ideas for the year ahead. It is important to look back and see how much ink and/or social media buzz that a program received for the money spent. Finally, it always works best when these key learnings are employed across all MSL clients, ensuring that our team works cohesively as a whole—and the expertise is carried throughout and shared.
Taking Consumer Marketing to School: Earning A+ Client Results by Jeffrey LeFevre
MSL Chicago’s consumer marketing team sat down with the students of Loyola University Chicago’s Beta Rho Honor Society at their School of Communication. Senior account executive Stephanie Lewis, account executive Angél Hakim, and assistant account executive Diana Rostkowski shared their take on the hands-on nature of consumer PR, the importance of real-world internship experience and the fast-paced agency life.
“The person in school who always takes charge of the group project — assigning chapters, calling group meetings, making sure the project is in order — that’s the PR person of the group,” said Stephanie Lewis. “In this fast-paced business, you need to be detail-oriented and ready to immerse yourself and make it happen, much like you would for a school group project. A successful PR professional is the one who gets the team together, rolls up his or her sleeves and determines what needs to get done for the best client result – hopefully an A+.”
Global Going Local: Google Acquisitions by Jen Tatro
I frequently visit daily deal websites and online recommendation sites on a regular basis. Between Yelp, OpenTable and Groupon, I see a lot of value in connecting with local businesses online and discovering new restaurants. Clearly, Google has been seeing the value too.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google purchased DailyDeal, a website based in Germany similar to the likes of Living Social and Groupon—which complements its Google Offers website. Google Offers launched in June and is currently only available in select cities, but the DailyDeal acquisition is just the latest in a series of moves focusing on local commerce websites.
Earlier this month, Google announced the acquisition of Zagat. At first, this move seemed surprising, but in reading more about the announcement, it’s clear that more brands and companies are seeing the value in marketing and branding on a local level. Hyper-local marketing is influencing the way companies engage consumers—not just for small to mid sized businesses, but for global organizations as well. Zagat has specialized in local reviews and recommendations for years, and it’s an approach for Google to tap into a regional consumer base and connect with local businesses.
In recent months, a few daily deal sites have reshuffled. Facebook cancelled the Facebook Deals product, while Yelp has downsized its daily coupon offering. Still, local commerce sites continue to grow as a source of recommendations and community buzz. Last week, I caught an infographic from Yelp, showing its exponential growth over the last five years. The site experienced 54 percent traffic growth in the past year— this explosion of online activity and memberships signal how more consumers are looking for recommendations from people like them in the local community.
There has been a lot of speculation around how Google will leverage local commerce acquisitions like DailyDeal and Zagat to tap into the cities around the world. Aggregating recommendations, daily couponing, reservations, and sharing the information with your extended network on Google+ could all be rolled into a powerful Android application. And of course, any Google searches for dining destinations will find Zagat recommendations at the top of the list.
In any case, it’s pretty exciting to see how the local commerce sites and even global companies are evolving their business models to reach a consumer audience craving reviews, recommendations and deals. Clearly, this audience is hungry for information on a local level, and it was only a matter of time before Google jumped into the local commerce playing field.
Through the years, the Internet has allowed us to stay connected to special events and media coverage during the workday. We live in an age where we can watch sporting event from our desks and followed the Casey Anthony trial in between meetings. It is only natural that companies recognize the power of engaging their audience online, and are now making exclusive events easily attainable to anyone with an Internet connection.
Fashion Week is one of those experiences many of us will never experience, and for some, scoring a coveted seat at a runway presentation seems like a far-fetched dream. However, as Mercedes-Benz Spring 2012 Fashion Week proved, fashion houses have reshaped the experience from being completely restricted to fans being able to partake in the event from their homes and cubicles (not that I partook in this, of course).
Oscar de la Renta is a prime example of a fashion designer that has mastered the art of creating brand buzz via social media. Erika Bearman, director of communications for the brand (and also known as @OscarPRGirl on Twitter), consistently engages fans by posting behind-the-scenes photos, quotes from Mr. de la Renta himself and musings from around the office. While various other designers have adopted a social media presence, the mixture of brand representation and personality from Ms. Bearman make Oscar de la Renta a shining case study.
As the media landscape has changed, gone are the days of waiting to pull up photos on Style.com post-event. Now, magazine editors upload commentary and photos in real-time. With the help of the PR team, OdlR leveraged Twitter and Tumblr to encourage followers to use the hash tag #odlrlive. Instead of catching photos from the show or a video recap, viewers could stream the event live from simply logging on to Tumblr. More than 2,000 tweets popped up as a result, and Tumblr produced hundreds of posts utilizing the event-specific hash tag.
This trend seems to only be gaining momentum, as other major fashion houses try to get a piece of the action. Burberry announced their Spring/Summer 2012 collection would premiere on Twitter, even before the runway presentation at London Fashion Week.
As public relations professionals are planning VIP events, this is a great practice to keep in mind. For invitees who are unable to attend, leveraging a social media campaign in conjunction with the event can still allow them to feel as though they are a part of the unique experience.
Welcome to Our Colleagues at Schwartz MSL by Joel Curran
We’re very proud of the growth MSL Chicago has experienced over the past four years, more than doubling the size of the office with the help of an impressive roster of clients who share our mutual interest in bold work and a smart, energetic team who share a passion to be boundless in all we create.
This week, we are even more excited about the future of MSLGROUP. We are proud to announce that Schwartz Communications, one of the world’s top independent tech and healthcare agencies, has joined MSLGROUP as result of its acquisition by the Publicis Groupe. Details of the acquisition can be found in the full release here.
Renamed Schwartz MSL, the firm, which has nearly 200 employees in offices located in Boston, San Francisco, and Europe, has a roster of over 200 clients and a deep expertise in the healthcare sector as well as the enterprise, emerging, clean and bio technology spaces. The shop also has substantial service offerings in consumer, social media and financial services.
This acquisition is MSLGROUP’s sixth globally and second in the Americas in the last year. And it not only increases the service offerings we can provide our current and potential clients, but it will significantly increase our scale globally allowing us to provide more efficient and effective service to marketers around the world.
MSLGROUP now has over 800 employees in the Americas and more than 3,000 people in 83 countries across the globe. And coupled with the recent global acquisition of 20:20 MSL in India, this acquisition provides MSLGROUP with global and formidable technology capabilities equipped with best-in-class talent that can service your technology and healthcare communications needs around the globe.
Schwartz’s Boston operation will merge with MSL Boston to form Schwartz MSL Boston, now the largest PR agency in the New England market with nearly 110 employees. Its San Francisco office will join with MSL San Francisco to become Schwartz MSL San Francisco, the second biggest tech agency in the market with nearly 70 people. MSLGROUP now also becomes a major presence on the West Coast with over 160 employees in four offices—SF, LA, and Seattle.
I’ve followed the Schwartz agency for years and have always been impressed with their growth and the quality of their people. They’ll be a great fit with our culture and dramatically enhance our capabilities. So to our new colleagues at Schwartz MSL— welcome to the MSLGROUP family.
Media relations has long been a cornerstone of public relations, however the question still remains: how do you develop these long-lasting media relationships PR professionals pride themselves on owning? At PRSA Chicago’s latest Young Professionals Network (YPN) workshop, the panel of media experts on both sides of the fence spoke to just that.
The YPN panel (pictured above, from left to right) featured: Kathryn Janicek, executive producer at NBC Chicago; our very own Christie Shein, senior account supervisor and media specialist at MSLGROUP; and Michael Lev, associate managing business section editor at Chicago Tribune. The three shared their perspectives and challenges, reiterating that the PR-journalist relationship can be mutually beneficial. Here are some key takeaways from the workshop:
Use Common Sense
The media are not unlike PR practitioners. Their email and voicemail boxes are filled to the brim daily and they are hard-pressed to throw together an entire newscast or story under tight time constraints. So, when you begin questioning whether your pitch letter is too long, or if you should write another follow-up email, step into their shoes for a second. Chances are, if you wouldn’t like to be contacted that way, neither will the media.
Get to Know Their Beats
One of the key frustrations the panelists expressed was that many PR professionals lack any familiarity with the reporters and outlets they pitch. If you are pitching stories that are not relevant or appropriate for a given reporter or publication, not only are you wasting his/her time, but your own. By simply keeping up with the reporters’ work on a regular basis, you can better tailor your pitches and earn greater traction from the media. If you are still unsure, just ask them about their beat in an email.
Stay Ahead of the News
It may seem rather intuitive, but you must keep up-to-date on the news relevant to your clients. Michael shared with us how his team was rushed to find an expert to comment on the recent Steve Jobs resignation story, and how he was hitting dead ends with local academia experts leading up to his evening deadline. Fortunately, a PR contact from University of Southern California was keeping tabs on the news; and reached out to Michael just in the “nick of time” with an industry expert and former colleague of Jobs, earning the school a feature in the Chicago Tribune story.
In the digital age, relevancy is paramount and PR practitioners must use tools like RSS feeds and Twitter to stay ahead of the stories. You must be able to pitch your clients at the “drop of a hat”, because by the next morning, that story is already old news.
The PR industry preaches a mentality of transparency and partnership with media and the YPN panel expressed that although it can be a rare, this alliance does exist. Simply by using some common sense, familiarizing yourself with your media contacts and keeping on top of the news, you can earn your stripes as a media relations powerhouse and build life-long relationships with the media, like our own Christie Shein.
For more media relations tips from the workshop, visit the YPN Facebook page.
MSL Chicago Summer Outing by Heather Marros
It’s been a great year so far for MSL Chicago…since January 2011 we’ve been able to add 15 new team members to our growing office and the collaboration and team morale couldn’t be better. As we start pumping up for the fall and winter we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to experience a perfect summer night in Chicago and head up to Wrigleyville for some ballpark food and drink and Boundless conversation, team bonding and fun!
A Cubs rooftop overlooking left center field – I have to admit it was hard to pay attention to the game as the conversation never had a dull moment.
Rumor has it the fun didn’t end after the Cubs beat out the Nationals four to two as the team rounded up for a tour of the great establishments in the area – A great way to finish off the night!
As summer wraps up, we’re able to put another exciting team outing into our history books as a great night with great friends.
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