What will your obituary say?

I had some extra time this morning to flip through the entire front section of my daily newspaper, The Greenville News.  Today, though, I took time to try and read every article, including the obituary page (which I normally gloss over, since I haven’t quite reached that age where I should start reading it to see if I know anyone).

Today I took the time to read through the recounts of these deceased people’s lives.  Some were military veterans, most were older than 60, one young girl died at 25.  What struck me most, though, was not the ages of the deceased listed, but rather how little of the content actually focused on the people’s careers.

Sure, there was passing reference to the place where the person had or currently worked.  But the bulk of the obit was dedicated to mentioning the person’s philanthropic work, community involvement or dedication to family and hobbies.

How ironic that we spend most of our time (or at least I do) thinking about how to grow our business, keep up in business, stay ahead in business — when at the end of the day, it’s the stuff outside of work that seems to matter most. 

There’s the old cliche that says when most people are close to passing away, they never wish they’d spent “more time at the office.”  Rather, they wish they’d spent more time with loved ones or pursuing interests that mattered most to them.

I hope whenever my time comes my obituary will say I was a dedicated and loving wife, mother and daughter, that I cared about others and was active in my church and community.  And oh yeah, that I had a successful PR business along the way.  I hope I would have a reputation that would make my family proud.

What would your obituary say about you?  Would your reputation precede you?  Would it say you spent way too much time at the office, or would it say you were dedicated to your family/friends/pets/community?

What kind of legacy will you leave behind? Just a question to ponder……

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Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Kelly Davis, APR, president of Davis Public Relations and Marketing

Liza and I have both had the pleasure of working with Kelly Davis, APR, president of Davis Public Relations and Marketing, on a variety of SCPRSA projects and activities. She is a great advocate for independent practitioners, and we’re glad she participated in the weekly profile with us! Read on to learn more and have a great weekend.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
o President of Davis Public Relations and Marketing, a full-service independent communications firm based in Columbia, South Carolina. We provide strategic public relations planning, branding, media relations, community relations and marketing programs to clients in a variety of industries with a special emphasis on health care and public policy.

o How did you become interested in the public relations industry?
o After majoring in English at Furman University, I took at job at a large corporation in Columbia, where I had a terrific mentor who encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree in journalism and a career in public relations. I knew that PR would be a great fit for my communications skills and my desire to connect companies with the communities they serve.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
o Independent practitioners now represent one of the fastest growing segments of the public relations industry. This fascinates me not only because I am independent, but also because of the success rates that I am seeing among independent practitioners. Success for each one of us means greater acceptance and greater understanding that small firms are just as competitive as large firms in pursuing big business and providing high quality, effective service to our clients.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
o I have been a member of the Public Relations Society of America and its South Carolina Chapter since 1997. I have been on the SCPRSA board since 2000, including serving as Chapter President in 2002, and currently serve as the Chapter Ethics Officer and the Chair of PRSA’s Independent Practitioners Alliance, a professional interest section with more than 200 members across the country. As the world’s largest professional association for public relations practitioners, PRSA has been vitally important to my professional development, networking and understanding of industry trends. Plus, I have made a lot of terrific friends!

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations industry?
o Take advantage of internships and part-time job opportunities. I encourage everyone to work or intern in the non-profit sector early in their career. Non-profits can be great places to learn and practice a lot of skills while being given actual responsibilities that make a difference in the organization.

o Please describe your experience in obtaining your APR. Was it different than you thought? How has it made a difference in your professional career?
o I began studying for the APR exam shortly after completing my master’s degree. At the time, you had to have five years of experience to pursue accreditation, so it was the perfect time to take the exam since I was still in a “study mode” from graduate school and still had all of the theory and history at the top of my mind. The APR process has changed since I took it, but in serving as a Readiness Review panelist and helping others prepare for the exam over the past few years, I now believe that the process is geared more to helping people succeed than it was in the past.

Before starting my own company, I was fortunate to work for other PRSA members who understood the value of accreditation, so it did help me in securing a raise when I passed the exam and in landing a new position for which APR was a desired qualification. Now as an independent business owner, I often explain to potential clients that working with an accredited practitioner means that they not only have PR counsel who fully understands the history and theory of public relations, but they also have one who is committed to ethical practice.

o What is the best thing about your job?
o I love the variety of working with different clients and being able to use different skills to meet each client’s needs. It’s rarely the same thing every day. I also take a lot of pride in helping my clients make a real difference in the lives of the people they serve. Working in the same community where I was raised, I feel that the work I do gives me a great opportunity every day to give back and to do my part in making South Carolina a better place to live.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
o I am most frustrated by the lack of understanding of the public relations profession, whether it is from people who equate public relations only with media relations or from those who accuse us of being “spin doctors.” The recent controversy involving a CBS News commentator who made disparaging comments about the public relations profession in general (and PRSA in particular) really illustrated the challenge we have on a daily basis to help people understand the full range of services that public relations encompasses as well as the duty we all have to advocate for our profession.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your own practice or one of your clients)?
o On July 2, Davis Public Relations and Marketing celebrates our fourth anniversary. I am very proud and excited about all that we have accomplished since taking that leap of faith four years ago. Every day brings new opportunities for personal and professional growth. I particularly want to express my sincere appreciation to my friends and colleagues who have been so supportive of my company and to all of the clients who have entrusted their business to our team.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?

o Being self-employed, I probably work longer hours now than I did working for someone else, but I’ve also learned to embrace the flexibility that owning my own business gives me. I make it a priority to spend time with my family and friends – those personal relationships are precious to me. I started working with a personal trainer this year, and my new commitment to regular exercise has really made a difference mentally as well as physically. Anything you can do to stay energized and refreshed will only make you better when you return to the office.

o Anything else you would like to add?
o I’d like to thank Liza and Kim for creating this terrific resource and meeting place for us Palmetto PR Divas!

Hope you are….sick?

I’ve seen posted on several journalists’ blogs lately about the disdain for the PR person’s e-mail pitch that begins with, “Hope you are well.” 

Listen, I get that media are inundated with hundreds, if not thousands of e-mails every week from PR practitioners – some of which contain content completely irrelavent to the journalist’s beat.  The optimistic side of me would like to think there are some e-mail pitches that actually demonstrate thought and insight, hoping to provide the reporter with a geniunely interesting story opportunity.

But really?  “Hope you are well” is now taboo?  What would you rather we say, “Hope you are sick?  Hope you fall off a cliff?”  It’s merely a consideration, much like saying hello or sticking our your hand to shake if you were to meet in person.  Don’t take it so personally. 

Palmetto PR Divas was meant to serve as a forum, not just for PR and marketing practitioners to compare notes and ideas, but also to engage in conversation with media representatives, so that hopefully we can bridge the gap between the misconceptions and realities out there.

So any journalists reading this right now, we’d love to hear from you.  What’s the problem with e-mail pitches?  Are you really that offended by the “Hope you are well” intro, or is it a symptom of a larger issue, like perhaps that the e-mail pitch itself is flawed?  Let’s talk about it – and hopefully come up with some ways we can all work better together.

Journalist profile: Keith O’Brien, PRWeek

As you know, in addition to profiling outstanding public relations practitioners, we here at Palmetto PR Divas like to feature compelling journalists, too, so that we might learn more about the state of the media right now and the challenges facing their industry.

Please meet Keith O’Brien, editor in chief of PRWeek magazine and PRWeek.com. This is a great weekly trade publication dedicated to breaking news in the PR and marketing industry and highlighting trends affecting our business. Keith shares more about his experiences as editor and what it’s like dealing with other PR people……

Palmetto PR Diva Journalist Profile: Keith O’Brien, PRWeek

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:  Keith O’Brien, editor-in-chief, PRWeek. I am responsible for all of the editorial content and strategy for the PRWeek brand.
o How did you become interested in journalism?  Oddly enough, I first knew I wanted to be a journalist in elementary school; my teacher had us create a “publication” – very generous description of what was basically scribblings in our notebooks. I “helmed” the sports section. I remember I picked every college football bowl game correctly that season for this “publication.” I guess I enjoyed the writing, otherwise I would be a Vegas handicapper. That – combined with an innate interest in writing – led me to become a journalist.

o Where did you get your career start?  Venture Reporter (nee Silicon Alley Reporter), helmed by the second most loved-hated Internet superstar Jason Calacanis (Mark Cuban being #1).
o Who or what has had the most impact on your career to date?  I would like to cop out and say everyone and everything. You can not absorb too much information. Unfortunately, this means you end up reading stuff on the Internet while watching TV, driving, or playing basketball for fear of missing out on breaking news.

o What piece of advice would you give to students possibly considering a career in journalism?  Get a dual degree in business. The media world needs employees who are entrepreneurial as they are reporters.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that are the most interesting to you?  That you cannot float by as a journalist anymore. You’re expected to produce and produce and produce. I expect that of my employees because I know everyone else expects. It’s a great time to be a journalist if you really want to care about what you do.

o Who is your target audience and how do you look for stories to appeal to them?  Our primary target audience is public relations professionals, but we’re increasingly trying to reach professionals in other marketing disciplines. Appealing stories? Dialogue and, again, voracious reading of all media.

o What is the best thing about your job?  Making a great product.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?  Making mistakes while pursue said product.

o How do public relations professionals assist you in your journalism role?  Well, we have a weird relationship with PR professionals. We cover them, instead of their bosses. So they assist us in a unique way.
o What things could PR professionals do better when reaching out to journalists?  Depend less on blasting out to lists and more on cultivating relationships.
o What Web sites and/or blogs do you read most often and why?  HuffingtonPost.com (best aggregator out there); Techmeme.com (ditto, for tech); Slate.com (though I often get annoyed at the contrarian-by-the-numbers approach); and frankly just my Google Reader, which has hundreds of feeds.

o Where do you look for news story and/or column ideas?  See above.

Money back guarantee for WOM?

I’m definitely going to keep my eye on this story as it develops.  I’d be interested to learn the results on athis new “WOM impact guarantee program” which focuses on guaranteeing results – or your money back.

http://adage.com/article?article_id=129593

Interestingly enough, I hope this contest of sorts doesn’t influence others to pressure public relations professionals into guaranteeing results.  Liza and I just had lunch today with a colleague and we were discussing how – no matter who your client is – it’s impossible and unethical to guarantee results, simply because of the nature of public relations activities and its relationship to what the media chooses to report.

Feel free to weigh in.

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Jessica Munday, president of Trio Solutions

I just finished a 4.5-mile run in Jetton Park on the beautiful Lake Norman! One of my friends is planning to run the marathon in Las Vegas this December and I told her I would run with her…After a week of more mileage I’m not sure if this 31-year-old can do another marathon, but I will try!

This week we are profiling Jessica Munday, president and founder of Trio Solutions in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Congratulations, Jessica, on the soon-to-be new addition to your family, and thanks for your insight on the importance of creating lasting relationships within the industry. After all, everyone wants to be treated with respect.

I’ve got meetings in Charlotte today and then am going to the Tom Petty concert tonight with some friends. Hope you have a great weekend, no matter what you have planned.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
o I’m Jessica Munday, president and founder of Trio Solutions Inc., a full-service marketing communications firm based in Mount Pleasant, SC. Our company specializes in marketing, event planning and Web development for nonprofit and health care organizations.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry?
o I knew when I was a senior in high school that I wanted to work in the communications field. My aunt worked for a large PR firm in Columbia, SC and I had an opportunity to go with her to a grand opening for one of her clients. Witnessing her pull together the media, VIP guests and overseeing all the logistics was enough to intrigue me. I went home and applied to USC’s College of Journalism. The rest is history.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
o Definitely the Internet. It’s fascinating, fast-paced and overwhelming all at the same time. Keeping up with, and understanding, all the new technology to communication professionals is quite a challenge but one I enjoy.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
o I have been involved with the American Marketing Association for several years and I frequently attend our local PRSA meetings. Because we specialize in working with nonprofits, I am also actively involved with the South Carolina Association of Nonprofits Organizations (SCANPO) and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The biggest value I find from being involved with these groups is having the opportunity to meet and network with other industry professionals.

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations/marketing industry?
o Regardless of what you learn in school or read in a book, everything you do is dependent on relationships. Having strong relationships in this industry, whether it’s with your vendors, the media, your clients or your co-workers, is the most important asset you can have. Manage them carefully and with the utmost respect.

o What is the best thing about your job?
o Knowing that I am doing what I love to do and that through the organizations we work with, I’m making a difference. It’s very comforting and fulfilling at the end of the day.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
o Being in an industry where so many people think they can do what you do. Everyone thinks they know how to market themselves. You see it all the time with homemade brochures (Publisher, anyone?), logos designed with clipart and Microsoft Word Art, poorly written press releases, Web sites designed by 13-year-olds. Marketing and PR as a practice still have a long way to go before they are viewed as being as vital of a business operation as HR or finance but we’re making great strides.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your company or one of your clients)?
o Well the most exciting announcement I have is that I’m excepting my third child this September. Obviously our family addition will add a new dynamic to my life as a working mom and business owner.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
o It’s a challenge but both aspects of my life are so fulfilling that I do everything humanly possible to ensure a balance and to be the best I can be as a mother, wife and business owner. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming and that’s when I remind myself to take each day as it comes and to put my faith in God that he would never give me more than I can handle.

o Anything else you would like to add?
o Yes, I think what Palmetto PR Divas is doing is awesome. Keep up the great work and I love the way you ‘pay it forward’ with each nomination. (Editor’s note: Thanks, Jessica!)

Pattie Boyd, Eric Clapton and…PR?

I know. I know.  I am supposed to be studying for my APR this summer.  But when I was in the airport flying to Florida last week for the July 4 holiday, I picked up a delicious memoir, “Wonderful Tonight” written by Pattie Boyd (she was George Harrison’s – of the Beatles – first wife and later married Eric Clapton). 

She inspired songs such as “Something,” “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight” among others.  Let’s just say neither marriage really ended well.  I read her book twice while laying on the beach and decided to pick up Eric Clapton’s autobiography in the airport on the way back – to read his side of the story. (As consumer savvy as I think I am, I can definitely fall victim to marketing tactics and impulse buys…the two memoirs were conveniently next to each other in the book store.)

Anyway, I have completely enjoyed both books, not because of all the name dropping and an insider’s view to the rock n’ roll lifestyle, but because it’s so refreshing to learn about people’s experiences and how they deal with internal and external challenges they face.  I love a good story that details the rise and fall – and rise again – of someone who has been through the ringer.

The public relations industry is not as glamorous as rock n’ roll (much to the dismay of students everywhere hoping to become Samantha Jones from “Sex and the City” once they begin their PR careers), but there are a lot of parallels.  Dealing with rejection, encountering difficult personalities and not seeing eye-to-eye on creative processes are some I can think of off the top of my head. 

This past week I’ve been disappointed with a professional situation, but there is no reason to dwell on it too long.  So, as I move onward and upward and eagerly await what’s next around the corner, I will listen to Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” in my car and think of how I can apply the lessons I’ve learned from this disappointment moving forward.  As silly as it may seem, reading these memoirs this week has helped me realize how important it is to stumble a bit, because you’ll be able to realize exactly why it happened at some point in the future.

Keep on keepin’ on, folks!