Procter & Gamble ends soap opera sponsorship – a must read for Rowan U. and other advertising majors

As Professor Litwin has said in class, so many times:

The way it was. From Procter & Gamble, AP. Cast of "Guiding Light" in 1937, a radio (and later TV) show sponsored by Procter & Gamble, which helped coin the term "soap operas." Ratings for daytime dramas have been sinking for years. Now, P&G and other big firms recognize social media as the efficient way to connect with customers. (Associated Press)

“The future is now and will (probably) change before this class ends.” To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com

By DAN SEWELL • Associated Press •

December 10, 2010

“As the World Tweets”

CINCINNATI — Goodbye, “Guiding Light.” Hello, YouTube.

Procter & Gamble Co., whose sponsorship and production of daytime TV dramas helped coin the

term “soap operas,” has pulled the plug after 77 years. Instead, the maker of Tide detergent, Ivory
soap and Olay skincare is following its customers online with a big push on YouTube, Twitter and
Facebook.

“The digital media has pretty much exploded,”
marketing chief Marc Pritchard said in an interview.
“It’s become very integrated with how we operate, it’s

become part of the way we do marketing.”

The last P&G-produced soap opera, “As The World
Turns,” went off the air in September. The show was
the leading daytime soap for decades, but had lost
some two-thirds of its audience at the end.

Over the years, P&G produced 20 soap operas for
radio and TV. But ratings for daytime dramas have
been sinking for years, as women, their target
audience, increasingly moved into the workplace,
switched to talk and reality shows, and spent more
time using online media and social networking
sites.

P&G, the world’s biggest advertiser, still buys
individual commercials on daytime dramas. But the
dollar amount has shrunk. P&G won’t say by how
much.

Dori Molitor, whose WomanWise LLC agency
specializes in marketing brands to women, says big
companies are realizing that social media is an
efficient way to connect with customers.

“Social media has become mass media, and for
women especially,” she said. “I think for all
marketers, these one-way, 30-second (TV) spots are
very expensive, and are less effective for the way
that women make decisions.”

Marketing experts say the biggest companies were
generally slow to adapt to the rapid rise of social
networks, but that beverage rivals Coca-Cola Co.

and Pepsico Inc., and P&G and fellow consumer
products makers Unilever PLC and Johnson &
Johnson are among those quickly making up for
lost time.

In recent months, P&G began selling Pampers
diapers on Facebook, offering an iPhone application
for Always feminine products that allows women to
track menstrual cycles and ask experts questions,
and using social media to turn a campaign for the
venerable Old Spice brand into a pop-culture icon.

The “Smell like a Man, Man” commercials starring
hunky former football player Isaiah Mustafa became
a YouTube sensation, drawing tens of millions of
views and spawning parodies such as one with
Sesame Street’s Grover, and generated another
round of attention with Twitter questions that
Mustafa answered in videos — such as on ABC’s
Good Morning America when he suggested that
President Barack Obama could improve standing
with female voters by wearing only a towel and
beginning speeches with “Hello, Ladies!”

The echo effect gives P&G a bigger bang for its
nearly 9 billion bucks a year spent on advertising.

“It is such an effective advertising campaign that we
are getting impressions that we did not pay for,”
CEO Bob McDonald told investors recently,
recounting that he saw an editorial cartoon showing
Obama on horseback, a takeoff on Mustafa’s “I’m on
a horse” Old Spice catch-phrase.

For a company known for measuring just about
everything, P&G touts big numbers from Old Spice

tracking:

Number of impressions (people who saw, read, or
heard about commercials): 1.8 billion.

Number of YouTube views for Old Spice and related
videos: 140 million and counting.

Increase in Twitter followers for Old Spice: 2,700
percent.

P&G also said Old Spice sales are growing at double
digits, taking more of the market for body washes
and deodorant.

Just 20 months ago, P&G hosted “digital night” at its
Cincinnati headquarters by inviting Google,
Facebook, Twitter and other online experts to help
test ways online and digital media could be used in
marketing. By the Vancouver Winter Olympics last
February, P&G was coordinating TV commercials
with Facebook messages and tracking instant
reactions to new commercials on Twitter.

P&G, which sponsored Team USA, unveiled
sentimental “Thank you, Mom!” commercials at the
Olympics that it estimates added $100 million in
sales. The campaign has included Facebook essay
contests and e-Cards for mothers.

P&G says it’s still exploring new uses for social
media.

“It’s kind of the oldest form of marketing — word of
mouth — with the newest form of technology,”
Pritchard said.

PR Seminar for educators and news media

Delsea Regional High School in Gloucester County, New Jersey hosted a public relations seminar for Gloucester County schools and news media outlets.

Here are the notes provided following the successful session. Anyone wanting more information may contact larry@larrylitwin.com. Much of what was discussed is availble in Litwin’s two books available on www.larrylitwin.com, digitally from Amazon for the Kindle, iPad and iPhone and at better book stores everywhere.

Public Relations Seminar Notes – December 6, 2010

Speakers  – M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA, Rowan University Associate Professor, Public Relations/Advertising

John Barna, Editor, Gloucester County Times

Resources:

Website – www.larrylitwin.com.

Student Resources Heading – handouts pertaining to audience engagement

Workshops/PowerPoints Heading -numerous detailed PowerPoints that contain information relevant to what we do every day.

Books – The ABCs of Strategic Communication by M. Larry Litwin

The Public Relations Practioner’s Playbook by M. Larry Litwin

Questions – How to Best Share Story and Get Media Attention?

How to Market Press Releases

How Do Schools Know Appropriate Person?

What is Hierarchy of Each News Media?

65-85% of news is PR generated

Keep media list up-to-date

#1 – Relationship – Develop relationships

#2-Knowing News

#3 Knowing Deadlines

Accuracy, Timeliness

Accessibility

Communicate from inside-out

Patch.com (AOL initiative – community journalism) – opportunity for schools to celebrate community – West Deptford will be soon included.

Make videos available to news – Jim Six – handles video content from GCT

School Budget Questions

How can schools sell budgets with 2 % cap?

News release approach

Electronic release (multi-platform approach – blogs, twitter, Facebook)

Need strong, strategic message – short message

Sit down with reporter before school board meeting where budget is released.  Give them the information and then follow-up

Remember information on website – 30% do not scroll to bottom of page – important message needs to be at beginning

Public education #1 commodity

United front from teachers and administrators

Turn around negatives and make them positives

Strategic message for seniors – Support education for your grandchildren

How can schools inform public without information seeming like a threat?

1.  Share reality of what will happen if budget does not pass.

Identify Yes Voters

Labor Intensive – but relatively new (for school communicators) One-to-One (1-1) Marketing is effective

2. Gaining, maintaining and enhancing public support as we move forward is just one of our challenges. Our taxpayers must be reminded, “We are in this together.”

No voters will come out to vote, so it is important to get as many people as possible to vote.

Day of Election – Get volunteer organization to bring voters to polls

Vote By Mail – Identify college students especially those away at school

Suggestions/ Considerations

Story ideas to consider – What is unique about the event?

Message

Audience

Channel for communication – where does audience get their information

Timing

And don’t lose sight of the purpose (why you are communicating the message)

Be persistent,  but pleasant

Monday – 3 PM – good time to contact media – looking for stories for week

Anniversary Dates are important to media – schedule an activity on an anniversary date

Reporters use Facebook for ideas and stories.

Know where information is going.

Strategic tweets – direct to website or Facebook

Plan your event for the fifth (5th) Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of month – you stand better chance for coverage

No municipal or board meetings are planned for 5th day of month

To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com

“Grow Your Business Through Networking”

On Friday, Nov. 19, Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA,  participated in the Chamber of Commerce of South Jersey networking workship. The full PowerPoint is available on www.larrylitwin.com under Workshops and PowerPoints. It is No. 15 (scroll down).

Here are accompanying notes. To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com

1.  How communication has evolved over the last few decades, including the importance of the human connection, face-to-face meetings, non-verbal communication and body language.

After slide with books…Open with PR is…read from “ PR Playbook.”

2.  Proper handshake – summarize…

PROPER HANDSHAKING –

The protocol for handshaking is simple: Walk up to the person you want to meet. Look into their eyes, smile and extend your hand. Offer a warm, firm, palm-to-palm handshake.

When you offer your hand to a stranger or a distant acquaintance, say, “My name is……( use both first and last names ).This way you eliminate the awkward moment of the forgotten name. The person being greeted is often relieved at being reminded, and will usually respond with their full name, which will in turn relieve you.

Delivering a proper handshake can make or break that first impression on a person. It certainly shouldn’t be limp and it should not be a crusher.

I recommend to my students and others to try shaking hands with a few friends.

3.  Eye Contact…[Technique 190…in “The ABCs of Strategic Communication.]

•  Eye contact. Once your hands have met, you should make eye contact and maintain it throughout the handshake.

4.  PR is slide…leading into Elevator Speech…

All of us should have 30 seconds [an elevator speech] about ourselvse to share with THAT important person.

Here’s an example using Rowan University as the  example…PR is

5.  Body language hints (Slide 8)

Also, for my students, when walking across campus or at a networking event, look up and smile — even say “hi.”

If at a networking event, work the room. Meeting prospectives is more important than eating.

6.  Back to eye contact for a moment…Upper third. It assures your are credible and believable. NO rolling the eyes.

So, grip – look – business card, being ready with an elevator speech and “I look forward to talking to you.”

8.  Show a favorite business card…Leave behind/Take away

9.  Etiqutte slide (make it quick) –

  • Defined –  conduct as established in a society or community.

10.  The Evolution of our profession

11.  Show Social Media video…then roll through slides…

12.  Slide 18 – MAC Triad which has added P and T…

13.  Slide 20 – Relationship management

14.  Shannon Weaver – Two way model

15.  Yes, as much as things change, they REMAIN the same.

[To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com. Visit: www.larrylitwin.com

South Jersey Face: M. Larry Litwin

As requested. This appeared on former blog site. Here we go again. It does contain some effective strategic communication techniques:

October 4, 2009

  • You could say M. Larry Litwin wrote the book on public relations. Actually, two really thick books. An associate professor of communication at Rowan University and a former broadcast journalist, Litwin has written two textbooks compiling just about everything he knows about the art of communicating with the public.

The third edition of “The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook: A Synergized Approach to Effective Two-Way Communication,” and “The ABCs of Strategic Communication” are used in college classrooms, kept on the desks of professionals and used as a reference by publicity volunteers for nonprofits.

Litwin lives with his wife, Nancy, in Berlin.

For information about Litwin, visit www.larrylitwin.com

Q: What does the term “public relations” mean?

A: There are many. Most are probably too academic. I define it as a management and counseling function that builds and maintains relationships with audiences through an understanding determined by asking them what they like, don’t like, want and don’t want. PR must be two-way (listen twice as much as we talk) and must be open, honest, thorough and valid. We are a company or organization’s chief integrity officer — the conscience of the organization.

Q: Your “Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook” is 555 pages long. How long did it take to write and how did you learn all that stuff?

A: Not long ago, some Rowan graduates who assisted me on the book were asked that question. The response, “He’s been writing that book his entire life.” Not quite. But I have been taking notes ever since my very first job in radio in Iowa while I was in college. Those same students, plus a few others, encouraged me to compile my notes and publish a book that professionals, students and volunteer groups could use. That’s what we did.

Throughout the years I’ve had great teachers and mentors. They encouraged me to be a sponge, taught me to listen and strongly suggested that I never be without a pen and paper to take notes. When I co-lecture a class with a colleague, I usually take more notes than the students.

Q: How is the recession affecting the public relations industry?

A: As with other professions, public relations has taken its hits with the recession. Many times, PR is the first to go. However, the smarter organizations realize that even during difficult times, it is important and even critical to an organization’s success that it have a public relations strategic counselor at the corporate table to help with research, planning and communication to internal and external audiences. The best CEOs make sure that their Number One, Number Two person is a seasoned PR counselor.

Q: What is the worst mistake a public relations person can make?

A: Lie. Never, ever. Credibility and trust are almost impossible to regain. In our profession, there is no substitute for ethics and integrity. Ivy Ledbetter Lee, one of PR’s founding fathers, said it best: “Tell the truth and provide (only) accurate facts.”

— Kim Mulford

To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com

Public Relations playbook: some thoughts – Philly AdNews

TOOLBOX TOPICS – Reprinted from AdNews – Philly Ad Club – November -December 2010

Public Relations playbook: some thoughts

 Every now and then seasoned communication professionals need to review the basics. Here are some thoughts from Larry Litwin’s The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook (AuthorHouse – 2009)

 

By M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA

 By M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA

Whether the profession is public relations, public communication or strategic advising, it all begins with the ABCs of strategic communication: anticipate, be prepared and communicate clearly, concisely, consistently, calculatingly (measured tones – weighing each word), and completely (specifically and simply).

Anticipate the reaction to a strategic message before communicating it. As Sir Isaac Newton said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The reactions to a CEO or spokesperson’s comments may not be equal and opposite, but they could take a strong opposing viewpoint that could damage a client’s image or reputation. Messages could be misinterpreted. “Test” them to be sure the “C” is achieved.

As columnist George Will points out, “Clarity is achieved only if our message is received and interpreted as we intend it.” That’s where the “B’ comes in. Through proper planning, effective strategic communicators are more likely to achieve their objectives and goal, which means synergy is achieved.

So, what is public relations?

Back in 1971, colleague Ralph Burgio and I brainstormed a definition of public relations. Here is what Ralph scribbled on a napkin at Mom’s Peppermill Inn just off exit 7A of the New Jersey Turnpike. It remains relevant nearly 40 years later:

PUBLIC RELATIONS?

Public relations is as simple as a thank-you note and as complicated as a

four-color brochure.

It’s as specific as writing a news release and as general as sensing community

attitudes.

It’s as inexpensive as a phone call to an editor or as costly as a full-page

advertisement.

It’s as direct as a conversation between two people and as broad as a radio or

television program reaching thousands of listeners or millions of viewers.

It’s as visual as a poster and as literal as a speech.

HERE, MY FRIENDS, IS THE BIG QUESTION: What IS public relations?

It’s a term often used – seldom defined!

In its broadest sense, public relations is “good work, publicly recognized.”

Believe me, there are no secret formulas. Public relations is simply:  the group itself saying —

• “This is who we are;

• What we think about ourselves;

• What we want to do; and

• Why we deserve your support.”

The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook (AuthorHouse – 2009) contains hundreds of proven tips and techniques. Here are a few:

“Tell the truth, provide accurate facts and give the public relations director access to top management so that he/she can influence decisions,” said Ivy Ledbetter Lee, recognized as an early media relations professional.

Warren Buffet said, “If you lose money for the company, I will be understanding. If you lose one shred of the company’s reputation, I will be ruthless.” Buffet, one of America’s wealthiest individuals, is chair and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Jack Welch, former General Electric chair and CEO, said, “I want strategic advisors who tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. Honesty and integrity are the only way.”

There is a common thread to the ethical practice of public relations. Arthur Page, recognized as the “father of corporate public relations,” developed these seven principles: tell the truth, prove it with action, listen to the customer, manage for tomorrow, conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it, realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people, and remain calm, patient and good humored.

Strategic counselor James Lukaszewski, in his book Why Should the Boss Listen to You? stresses that public relations counselors should strive to be the “number one, number two” person in an organization – the go to advisor, associate or assistant to the CEO. Lukaszewski pushes company and organization leaders “to look over the horizon and see what’s there – have a clear vision.” He points out that the best leaders “have in place the people and skills necessary to achieve the goals and objectives the boss promised to accomplish. He also encourages CEO’s “to promise less and achieve more.”

A favorite public relations tip is credited to Patrick Jackson – the “Double Bottom Line Theory,” which has evolved into the “Triple Bottom Line”:

First Bottom Line: Create relationships. If the organization has already achieved that important first line, work on enhancing the relationships and, at the very least, maintain the relationships you have. It costs far less to retain a customer or client than it does to attract new ones.

Second Bottom Line: Revenue. It generates from sales developed from the relationships created and built in the first bottom line.

Third Bottom Line: Profit. After all, that is what it is all about – making  money. To make money, though, revenue must be generated and costs controlled. Like the other tips, the “Triple Bottom Line” is more than theory, it has been proven time and time again – just look at Southwest Airlines, Staples and Wal-Mart.

Even before the Phillies became perennial winners, president David Montgomery recognized the value of relationship building. He turned an evening at the ballpark into an experience – a family experience – from the moment you pull into the parking lot and scan your own ticket until the final out.  Those relationships turned into revenue, the revenue into profits and, with Pat Gillick, Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manual’s strategies and tactics, the Phillies have won their fourth straight division title.

Former Rowan University marketing director Ed Ziegler says, “Reaching the desired outcome – is a process.” He says, “By educating your publics, you give them the knowledge needed to develop the proper attitude that leads to the behavioral outcome you want. When the organization’s output equals the outcome, synergy is achieved.”

However, none of these tips and advice mean a thing if the following principle isn’t followed. It comes from Melissa Matthews, Rowan class of ’01 and Woman’s Day beauty editor. She said it in the October 2011 issue in response to “What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?”

Said Melissa: “Make sure everything you do is open, honest, thorough and valid. I follow this advice from my college mentor, Professor Larry Litwin. It helps me make decisions, especially when evaluating beauty products.”

M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an established strategic advisor, teacher, mentor, role model and ethicist, and an award-winning public relations counselor and broadcast journalist.

Networking – It IS effective

M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA

Hone your networking skills now. Here’s start from M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA.

Networking begins with a firm handshake, a look into the eyes and exchange of business cards. It is an important step in anyone’s personal [job seeking] plan that could lead to an interview and first “real” job.

To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com

Ready, Set, Resume

By M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA

[To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]

          Timing for a PRomo article about resumes couldn’t be better. As the new school year started, the world was celebrating “International Update Your Resume Month.” Who would have thought?

          How big a deal is the resume? Recently, on NPR [National Public Radio], experts agreed. “It’s the biggest deal. That’s what opens the door to the interview,” said Louis Barajas, finance expert and author.

          “If you don’t stick out like a sore thumb, if you don’t push yourself in front of everybody else, you won’t even get through the front door.”

          According to Laura DeCarlo of Career Directors International, “It’s completely an issue of whether you are going to stand out from the pack of what could be hundreds – even a thousand candidates.”

          How do you standout? First and foremost, applicants must sell themselves – emphasizing what they’ve done and how well they have done it. And, they have to do it in 15 to 20 seconds.

          Are you up to the challenge?

[  ]   Be a storyteller in few words. Help the employer recognize how you are above the competition with the same or similar skills and experience set.

[  ]   Use key words [scannable – meaning, keys words recognizable by certain computer software] that the prospective employer might be looking for. Many times, they’ll jump right off a firm or organization’s website. “The biggest problem I see with most people looking for jobs,” says Barajas, “is that they haven’t done enough research on the company or the position. They’re not using the words that the employer is looking for.”

[  ]   Customize your resume for the employer and position. Ask yourself the question, “If I were hiring, what would I be looking for.”

[  ]   Proofread, proofread, proofread. Typos can turn the perfect resume into an office joke. [How many times has a public relations agency received a resume with the word public missing a key letter? Do not place your trust in spell check.

          Now some strategies and tactics that will get you noticed:

[  ]   Ditch the “objective.” Polish your resume by including a summary paragraph [just under your personal information] stating what you bring to the table, qualifications, experience and examples of a job well done. It should be succinct and contain buzzwords human resource managers look for –many of the same key message points you would include in an elevator speech. If that statement can be attributed to a third party, all the better. Here is an example:

Applicant Statement: My professor/advisor (Anthony J. Fulginiti) describes me as “mature beyond her years, articulate, well tailored and polished, loyal, has a passion for the profession, outstanding writer, and a skilled organizer and strategic thinker.” It is my dream to bring those qualities, passion and dedication to ELLE’s readers – just as I do the residents of Cherry Hill. My zest for knowledge and new challenges is contagious and should appeal to ELLE magazine’s staff and target audience.

[  ]   Do not exaggerate. Even recent graduates should be able to list positive outcomes on their resumes without stretching the truth.

[  ]   On entry-level resumes, present your college experience – including PRaction and PRomo. Highlight PRSSA, AdClub, AdDyamics and other results-oriented activities, and note if you attended college on a scholarship. Include summer jobs, highlight internships and jobs relevant to your degree.

[  ]   If your resume is two pages [do not go over two], and many PRSSA students will go over two pages, be sure to include contact information on the bottom right side of page two. One never knows if a hard version gets separated.

          In response to whether a resume should be one or two pages: According to NPR and its guests, “Some people are adamant that the resume should be only one page. Then others say, ‘Well, if you really want to let people know the breadth of your experience, then, of course, you should take two.”

          If you’ve ever wondered what terms employers search for, here are results of a recent CareerBuilder.com study:

Problem-solving and decision-making skills (50 percent)

Oral and written communications (44 percent)

Customer service or retention (34 percent)

Performance and productivity improvement (32 percent)

Leadership (30 percent)

Technology (27 percent)

Team-building (26 percent)

Project management (20 percent)

[To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]

Print VS. e-books

[Reprinted from Rowan University’s “The Whit” on Sept. 23, 2010. To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]

E-reading devices may one day replace books and textbooks.

While the technology is still in its relative infancy, e-books and e-textbooks may soon become institutionalized for college students. According to media industry analyst Simba Information, e-textbooks will account for at least 11 percent of textbook sales by 2013.

“I love it,” said M. Larry Litwin, public relations professor at Rowan University. “It’s the trend; it’s where it’s going. Anything we can do as faculty to save students money on books, without compromising the content, we should do.”

Litwin himself has authored two books – “The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook” and “The ABCs of Strategic Communication” – that are also available on e-reading devices. Students can buy his books on Amazon’s Kindle and even highlight text like they normally could in traditional textbooks. Litwin plans on allowing The ABCs of Strategic Communication to update itself on e-reading devices automatically.

“I want to do (The ABCs of Strategic Communications) totally online so I can update it at my convenience,” Litwin said.

On the contrary, Carl Hausman, both a professor of journalism at Rowan and author of 20 books, still enjoys print. “For a lot of applications, I would still choose the book,” Hausman said. “It’s not that I’m old, which I am. I just like the book technology.”

When asked about the money involved in publishing e-books, Litwin explained how much more lucrative electronic publication is. Print publications are bogged down by printing costs. The author of an academic textbook will get between 10 and 20 percent of the book cost. With e-books not having to worry about printing obligations, authors can gross more with electronic publications.

Amazon.com tells its authors, “We are excited to have launched the 70 percent royalty option for books published through DTP on the Amazon Kindle and Kindle Applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry and Android phones.”

Although a textbook may cost $40, Litwin explained, the royalties for it only amount to about $6 per copy. Litwin still prefers physical books on a personal level. “I’m a traditionalist. The accessibility of having hard copy might be easier.”

Although he sees the advantages of both, when asked about print’s future, Hausman summed it up best saying, “I don’t think the book will disappear.”

Meet the PR Pro: Michael Gross

[This is a Philly PRSA blog dated Feb. 16, 2010. To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]


by Amy Merves, public relations, healthcare, and media professional and PRSA Philly Chapter Publicity/Web site Chair

Welcome to “Meet the PR Pro,” a new column designed to highlight professionals in the PRSA Philly chapter through conversations that reveal career paths, industry advice, and a touch of humor. For this edition, we interviewed Michael Gross, vice president of public relations with Jack Horner Communications and PRSA Philly’s 2010 president.

Can you describe your daily responsibilities at Jack Horner Communications?
Generally speaking, my job is twofold. First, I oversee many elements of the firm’s accounts, such as plan execution and making sure our clients get the best work and the best results. Second, I have leadership responsibilities as the supervisor of our PR and creative team.

What was your first PR position after college?
I was hired by Cherry Hill Township following an internship with the municipality. There, I worked in the recreation department planning the township’s events. We planned more than 60 events a year and my job involved everything from organizing event logistics to speech writing to media relations.

What newspapers/blogs do you read on a daily basis?
I get most of my news online. I wake up to www.cnn.com for national headlines and www.kyw1060.com for local news. Then, throughout the day, I follow most major news outlets’ Twitter feeds for breaking news and current events. I often read the hard copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer, too. And for fun, I follow www.myextralife.com, which is a fun blog (and podcast) for the other stuff I’m into.

What are your top three favorite books?
The geek in me still loves the “Lord of the Rings” series by J.R.R. Tolkien. “The Road” (Cormac McCarthy) is great. And I’d be remiss not to mention “The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook” by Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA. It’s a great tool for any PR pro, no matter what level of experience.

What advice do you have for anyone entering the PR field?
Network, network and network. Our industry is all about building relationships.

What is the top goal that clients have in mind when they hire a PR company?
Results. Everyone is looking for results. We as PR practitioners are, in essence, sales people. We’re selling ideas, concepts, stories, etc.

What is a common misconception that people have when they think of PR?
I can’t tell you how many students tell me they got into PR because they are “people persons.” While it’s nice to like people, PR is more about strategy — understanding attitudes, opinions and behaviors and knowing how to move the proverbial ”needle” by persuading or influencing an audience. Being good at PR takes a bit more than being a ”people person.” Rant over. Oh, and we don’t “spin.” We “position.”

Outside of work, how do you enjoy spending your time?
Wait, there’s time of outside of work? Just kidding. I enjoy spending my time with my family (boring answer, but it’s true). I also love the outdoors, so I fill the rest of my spare time hiking, fishing, camping, etc.

What was the best advice you received when you were just starting out in your career?
The best advice I got when I started out was to “speak up.” Don’t be shy. Go out, meet people. If you have an idea, express it. The only way to get ahead is to find a way to be heard. Hopefully at least some of your ideas are good ones!

What is the funniest PR story that you have read?
Have you heard the one where a news release, a brochure and a newsletter walk into a bar?

Key Communicators – It all started at Rowan University

     To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com and check out Billy, Ashley and Eileen’s blogs.      

 It has been nearly half a century since Rowan University Professor Emeritus Don Bagin coined the term Key Communicator. And while Key Communicators are still an authorized grapevine that delivers facts to a community quickly and honestly, the channels used to get those facts to KCs has changed with the times.

            Key Communicators remain a school system’s lifeline to the community – especially in time of crisis or when the district needs public support. KCs – properly “schooled” – can be and are strategic message “carriers.”

            While face-to-face or word-of-mouth is still number one to assure that messages are received and interpreted to produce intended results, other modes of communication have evolved from primarily print and regular mail to cross platforming (sometimes referred to as convergence of distribution –print, Internet, wireless, broadcast [radio/TV]).

            No longer is a printed, hardcopy of such newsletters as Keynotes the preferred, but rather an inline version – which appears on the computer screen the moment an e-mail is opened. E-newsletters and blast e-mails have taken on a life of their own. The cross platforming might include newsletter attachments, text messaging, Podcasts, Vcasts, social media, Blogs and blast voice mails.

            Key Communicators – sometimes referred to as influencers, connectors, consumption pioneers or opinion leaders – are “a collection of individuals who have influence over part of a community,” says Tom Salter, senior communication officer, Montgomery (Ala.) County Schools . “A Key Communicator network is a loose-knit panel of opinion leaders who can shape community perceptions.

            “Nothing moves faster than a speeding rumor, is more powerful than an editorial board or able to leap tall special interest groups in a single bound,” states Salter.

            Three South Jersey school districts established Key Communicator programs years ago – during the 70s.  Heather Simmons, Glassboro (Gloucester County), Jan Giel, Washington Township (Gloucester County) and Susan Bastnagle, Cherry Hill, inherited and have nurtured their programs assuring they would continue to be their lifeline to the community.

            No matter how effective, Key Communicators should be only one of a school system’s feedback techniques. But KC programs serve as the hub of the face-to-face public relations program because “they (Key Communicators) will gladly tell you what they – and their friends, neighbors and local businesspeople – think,” Salter says.

            “No matter how many times we’ve heard it,” says Glassboro’s Simmons, “as public relations professionals in education, we always have to be mindful that we are dealing with the two things that take priorities in the life of a family – their children and their wallets.           

            “Key Communicator groups are helpful as we attempt to communicate to these families and other stakeholders with sensitivity, accuracy and efficiency,” states Simmons who serves as public relations consultant to the Glassboro Public Schools.

            “Key Communicators are valuable because they provide an opportunity to learn or confirm information, which helps us anticipate issues and make educated and researched decisions that relate to the public,” says Katie Hardesty. Hardesty, a Rowan graduate, is in the process of establishing a Key Communicator network for the Cherry Hill Public Library where she serves as public relations and special events director. She is using what is often referred to as the “Rowan University KC model for schools.”

            “KCs will help us gauge the community, give easier access to focus groups and other informal research, and help us counter misinformation that might arise,” Hardesty explains.  

            Like Cherry Hill, Washington Township has about 100 core Key Communicators who receive regular e-mails. Jan Giel, community relations coordinator for the district, reflects that it takes time to develop and maintain a successful KC program. “But it’s worth it,” she says. “In the long run, KC programs save far more time than it takes.”

            To make her point, Giel cites one recent example: “We used it (KCs) for rumor control when two of our middle schools were found to have mold.”

            Like most districts in the country, New Jersey school systems rarely, if ever, bring their KCs together for formal meetings. Two-way communication is accomplished through e-mails, interactive newsletters, phone and face-to-face.

            However, the Glassboro Public Schools have taken the route of bringing their 130 KCs together three times a year to inform and discuss issues of importance and to seek input as the district develops its budget.  The final meeting of the academic year – usually in April – is reserved for a post-mortem following the annual school election and to preview issues that may be coming up for the following year.

            While many think only in terms of influential residents or businessmen and women, a district’s internal family must be included among those who play a vital role in a district’s two-way communication process. One reason is because it’s the right thing to do. Another is because school employees are among the most trusted to tell the truth about what’s happening inside a school or at the district.

            No rule, written or otherwise, states that all Key Communicators must be strong school district supporters – or supporters of public education in general. In fact, it might be best if some are detractors.

            All, however, should be recognized as opinion shapers, community leaders, or just the woman or man next door willing to listen, talk and serve as a liaison (connector) between the schools and those with whom they come in contact. KCs are vitally interested in the welfare of their municipality, schools or the company or organization for which they work.

            No community, company or organization is immune to rumors – and rumors continue to grow unless they are snuffed out in their earliest stages.

“Research is clear,” says Mark Marmur of Makovsky & Company Public Relations, New York City, “Key Communicators, effectively chosen, are the pulse of their community.

            “It is an incredibly successful concept that helps build and maintain relationships and will quickly become an integral part of any organization’s ‘relationship marketing program’,” states Marmur, who holds bachelor and master’s degrees in public relations from Rowan University.

            Marmur notes that it is not only school systems that incorporate Key Communicator-type networks in their over-all public relations plan. Major corporations like Walt Disney World Resorts, Staples and smaller retailers like Hello, Sports Fans! (Cherry Hill) have relied on KCs for years to give them constant feedback and to relay positive and negative stories of their experience.

            Public schools starting a KC program might include PTA presidents and other officers, barbers, beauticians, lawyers, doctors, dentists, bankers, real estate and insurance agents, teachers, support staff, bus drivers, students, shopkeepers, and former school board members.

            While Bastnagel, Cherry Hill’s public information officer, courts Key Communicators, she believes, as does Disney, that electronic communications empowers everyone to be a Key Communicator. “Within minutes,” she says, “we can have a video message from our superintendent or other administrator on our district Web site and I can e-mail the link to thousands of subscribers on our e-mail notification list. 

            “I’m obsessive about sending out my e-news every single week during the school year, so that anyone who sees it is equipped to be a Key Communicator. And even if they don’t read it carefully each week, they know it’s there as an information resource.”
            In Glassboro it’s known as the Bulldog Bulletin, in Cherry Hill’s the CHPS e-news and a number of districts publish their own Keynotes. While they may have started as printed newsletters – one-way communication – all have evolved into e-newsletters with many of the articles containing links to “landing sites.” Many times, those links contain a “casual” survey asking for comments, reactions and other input to certain questions.

            “When I need our Key Communicators for something and send an email to that effect, they are used to seeing my name and know they can trust me,” says Simmons. “You can’t put a value on that.”

            Like many others responsible for coordinating school system KC programs, Bastnagel faces the challenge of “rethinking the entire Key Communicator concept – how to meld the power and pervasiveness of electronic communications with the one-to-one, face-to-face feel of a Key Communicator program.”

            Says Bastnagel: “As with every other aspect of my job, the Key Communicator program has changed as the power of electronic communications has evolved. Ten years ago, we reached out to our 100 or so Key Communicators with letters, phone calls and periodic face-to-face meetings.  But, 10 years ago, I didn’t have a cell phone, lots of parents didn’t have (or didn’t use) e-mail and our district Web site was still under construction.  Today, third graders have cell phones.  It’s a lot harder to stay ahead of the message.  (And, as Montgomery, Alabama’s Tom Salter said) News travels fast and bad news travels even faster.”

            During the recent National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) annual seminar, superintendents agreed, “Communication is a contact sport. If you are willing to mix it up in terms of communication and get close to people, face-to-face human contact, then you and your district will be successful.”

            Well thought out and effective Key Communicator networks should be an integral tactic in every school systems’ communication plan.

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M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA,  is an associate professor of public relations at Rowan University in Glassboro and a former school public information director in Washington Township, Gloucester County. He is the 2006 recipient of the National School Public Relations Association’s Lifetime Professional Achievement Award for “excellence, leadership, contributions to the profession, and advocacy for students and our nation’s public schools.” His two books, The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook and The ABCs of Strategic Communications, both published this year, have won national acclaim.