We all know how closely related the fields of Marketing and Public Relations are. On Tuesday, September 25th I attended a presentation by a company named Agility Solutions that was very interesting, and I wanted to share it with everyone. Agility Solutions was created in Denver by a couple of K-State graduates, and now is a multi-million dollar company and named one of the fastest growing companies in Denver a few years in a row. Out of 40 current employees, 8 are K-State graduates. I attended this presentation because they were looking for marketing interns, and was just curious what they were all about.
What Agility Solutions does is known as “profit assurance consultancy.” In other words, if your company thinks it is missing money somewhere, through situations like forgetting to bill clients, their company goes in and uses date analytics to find where you are missing money. The best part, if they don’t find anything, you don’t pay them. They take 25 cents of every dollar they find for you, which essentially is nothing because if they hadn’t found the money for you you’d be losing it all anyway. It’s a win/win situation.
During their presentation they presented three different case studies to show how their company worked. The first was with a Healthcare provider. The company had been billing incorrectly and was missing over 1 million in charges. This was money that Agility Solutions was able to get back for them using data analytics and a good research and marketing team. The second case study was an oil and gas company that used a truck line to transfer the oil. The truck line was having their employees double bill (to two different oil and gas providers) when it should have been billed once and split in half. Through research they were able to find that the trucking company was billing for over 24 hours in a day. This led to a current litigation that is ongoing, but is finding millions of dollars in over-billing. The third was a telecommunications company that was not making the margins they hoped. Agility Solutions found that they weren’t billing their customers correctly and not only saved over 1 million in disputes, but also increased their revenue by $50,000 monthly.
This was a very interesting presentation and it was pretty crazy to see this new field that is now in need of great marketing people to show that every business should use a company like this to find money that they should have, but don’t. Having a good communications, research and marketing background seems to becoming an essential for almost any job (even things like data analytics and IT), and that was made evident to me through this presentation.
On Monday, September 24th I attended the PowercatPR (PRSSA) meeting with guest speaker Samantha Carter. Ms. Carter is the Integrated Communications Program Manager for the Midwest Dairy Association. She spoke to us about what it is like to be a PR person in the “real world”, and some of the correct steps in transitioning from college to your career.
In the beginning of the presentation, Ms. Carter told us what she does as the integrated communications program manager. This included almost anything online or dealing with social media within the company. She also has had to deal with many video projects and writing, and has also helped to design an android application that turns a personal photograph of you into a butter sculpture.
Although this was all very interesting, I think the most important points of her presentation were when she spoke about transitioning into the PR workforce. The main points she stressed were that what you do as a good student will make you successful in your career as well. This includes not procrastinating, and being attentive and organized. Another thing she stressed is that in PR especially you should expect consistent change. You must always be aware of what the next thing is and be willing to learn and adapt. She said that employees will not go looking for people to take on extra projects or learn new things. You have to be the one willing to go above and beyond, and work outside your comfort zone. She also mentioned that you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have. A few tips she gave us in making an impression during the job search were to know how to write in AP style, to research the position you are applying to, and to proofread your resume and have someone else read it as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Carter’s presentation. It was nice to hear a case of someone who has been in our shoes now and knows what the transition into a career is like. All of the tips and strategies she gave us to help us in the PR field were all very valid. I think the best part of her speech was when she showed a picture of herself sleeping during a meeting and said “DO NOT fall asleep during meetings. Someone is always watching you.” Overall it was a good presentation and nice to hear from someone a few years out of college who is in the PR workforce.
On Thursday September 20th I had the opportunity to attend the first Communications Research Colloquium Series for this year in Nichols Hall. This Colloquium series is a way for professionals at K-State in the communications field to let others know about what they are doing outside of the classroom. I have never attended something like this before, but saw it as a great opportunity to get to know what other people at our University are doing in an effort to broaden their knowledge of communications through research. It turned out to be very interesting and I am very glad I attended this event.
The first presentation was given by Dr. Samuel Mwangi and Dr. Steve Smethers. Their presentation, “If you build it, will they come? A Study of Community Reactions to an Open Source Media Project in Greensburg, Kansas” Sparked a particular interest in me because it had to do with a tragic event that I remember quite well. After the tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, there was almost no way to communicate within the community. In an attempt to better communication, there were satellite trucks that would drive around to transmit a signal and help communicate, similar to the ones used here at K-State. The community then built a central community electronic media system that members would contribute to. The center was launched in November 2011 but is not yet fully functional. Within this media system there was a museum, library and communications center. The main people who ended up using the community center, and mainly the citizen journalism, turned out to be high school students. This wasn’t because of a lack of interest from other members of the community, but more because of the fact that most of the older members did not know how to use the technology. A recent survey done showed that although most members of the community supported the communications center, they do not want to have to personally pay taxes to keep it running since it was not necessarily their idea as a community to put it together. Overall this is a great idea to help out communications in case of another tragic event, but it has not yet been fully embraced by the community as a necessity. The main thing to keep in mind is that it has only been a year since the community center was launched. Also with a few training sessions on how to use the technology it may be more widely accepted.
Professional Development Report by Brett Seidl
On September 11, I had the chance to attend Greek Leads, an annual event hosted by the K-State Office of Greek Affairs each fall. I had attended the event in the past, and each year includes some sort of presentation aimed at inspiring Greek members to hold themselves to a higher standard. As in years past, Tuesday’s event was well-attended (hundreds of K-State Greeks, many of whom were required to attend by their chapter). And just like last year, most of the students in attendance knew exactly what to expect from the keynote speaker – the classic line about bad Greek stereotypes and what we should do to change it. However, this year’s keynote turned out to be a fresh and inspiring look at how our organizations communicate with their publics.
The keynote speaker was Mike McRee, vice president of LeaderShape, Inc. He speaks with thousands of Greek members each year and is a highly respected leader within fraternal leadership organizations nationwide. Immediately, he built his credibility with the audience by sharing about his Greek experience at Kansas State – he spent his college years as a Sigma Nu at K-State. He spoke about the negative and positive messages that fraternities and sororities send to the K-State campus every day. He shared examples of bad PR modeled by chapters across the country – from embarrassing social media posts to degrading fraternity t-shirts. McRee even did some research on how K-State Greeks communicate – and he shared them in a very public way. He flashed screenshots from chapter websites and Collegian articles that represent poor PR for K-State fraternities and sororities. It was a direct, impactful, and somewhat humorous way of driving his message home. The root idea – “think about what you’re communicating.” Fraternities and sororities have many publics, from prospective members to non-Greeks nationwide, and have years of negative stereotypes to fight against. His hour-long presentation reminded me that everything I do is being noticed by someone, and that my actions represent the organizations I’m involved with (including my fraternity and the greater Greek community). Although McRee may be a leadership speaker by trade, he had engaging and thoughful insights into the complex world of message formation and organizational PR.
Jeff Morris, Vice President for Communications and Marketing at K-State spoke to a group of journalism students on Aug. 30. He, along with a PR writer and PR director, presented a detailed account of the challenges they face daily. Morris began his presentation with suggesting we, as students, be wired all the time. Jennifer, the PR writer, said every morning she scans the news and updates herself on both domestic and foreign current events. Morris visits the department heads, averaging about thirty meetings a week. Jennifer said some of her responsibilities include writing quick news releases, updating issues on the website with real time information, and arranging interviews. She said it’s vital to create good relationships with key publics, especially during crisis communication. She told us that it’s hard to earn a reputation but can be easily lost. Greg, the PR director, highlighted how important it was for PR firms and professionals be transparent.
Morris pointed out that on a daily basis they will interact with a wide variety of key publics such as students, alumni, faculty, reporters, parents, fans, and local/national media. When asked why he loves his job he responded, “We get to tell the great stories of our universities.” All three speakers agreed that while it can be dull work, they enjoy what they’re doing and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
When asked what it takes to be successful in the field of PR, Morris told the students, “It takes people skills, writing skills, and the ability to adapt to new technology. These won’t go away. Also, add flexibility.”
It was interesting to hear about the daily encounters Morris and his team have. I wish they had done a better job about showing us examples of the work they’ve done in the past or finished products but all in all I enjoyed attending the presentation because they use skills and tactics we’re learning about in class.
A couple weeks ago I attended a lecture from Jeff Morris, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at K-State. Two of his colleagues, a PR Writer and PR Director, were there to accompany Morris. The whole lecture was about a typical day in the life of their different PR positions here at K-State. Now this has been something I was always interested in, to know what a typical day would be like in the PR world. I have never shadowed anyone in a professional world, and none of my other PR classes had ever touched on it, so I was excited to here from real life professionals about some of the stuff they did.
The speakers had a planned PowerPoint presentation that started from 8 a.m., when they arrived to work, to 4 p.m. and even sometimes later. Throughout the whole day, the PR writer creates new releases, tweets, and gathers university information, and sets up interviews. To me that sounds like a lot of dirty work, and maybe that’s just because I’m not into writing news releases and articles. Although I it would be interesting to interview all sorts of people, I don’t think it would be the job for me. The next position was the PR Director. His day consists of more responsibility such as managing the PR writers, communicating with Jeff, and dealing with crises. I think this would be a much more manageable position for me, because I like being a leader, but I also like being apart of the team. The last position talked about was the Jeff’s job, Vice President. From what I picked up, his day consists of drinking coffee, meetings, and fabulous dinners. Of course that’s not all he does, but still, a pretty sweet gig if you ask me.
So when I left the presentation, I had a little more clarity on what I wanted my future to be in PR. I realized I definitely do not want to be a writer, but I also realized I definitely want to work in a team.