PR Case Study – moving towards better health

For those out there who think public relations professionals only spin the “real” news, or think that all are a bunch of flacks, I wish they could have attended yesterday’s SC PRSA meeting.

The luncheon focused on how a healthcare public relations campaign is invaluable when communicating to appropriate audiences upcoming changes in the hospital that directly affects them.

A panel of four healthcare communications professionals from Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, discussed GHS’s use of integrated marketing communications for its Greer Memorial Hospital grand opening in August.

From existing hospital employees to the Greer community and from physicians to community leaders, there were a lot of key audiences to address. While each needed to receive a different message, the overlying factor – whether you are a patient, a family member visiting a patient, a receptionist or a physician – was that customer service is paramount to Greer Memorial.

GHS really focused on the importance of communicating the fact that the new hospital would be open and available to the public – and ready to be part of the community. This was achieved by advertising, billboards, community events, as well as media relations tactics for both feature stories and relevant health columns.

I was really proud to listen to the painstaking efforts GHS took this past summer when opening Greer Memorial, and I wish these kinds of stories would make headlines in industry publications, rather than focusing on those out there who simply churn out news releases and pitch irrelevant outlets non-newsworthy stories. There really are public relations professionals out there who work hard to implement strategic activities to serve their publics well while meeting the goals of the organizations they represent.

What is your “proud” moment in PR?


How to succeed in business..and still have a life – IPA PRSA teleseminar – Nov. 19

Just a heads up on an upcoming IPA (Independent Practitioners Alliance) teleseminar hosted by PRSA

Titled “How to succeed in business and still have a life,” the teleseminar will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

If there is any interest among practitioners in the Greenville area to attend in a central location and split the fees (Independent Practitioners Alliance Member $85, Member $190 / Nonmember $290), please let me know and I can coordinate. I’ve included the description below.
Too many professionals work hard and yet spin their wheels. Many are only a few minor adjustments away from real success. Learn proven strategies and step-by-step approaches that can make the difference between just getting by and succeeding.

You’ll learn how to:

Set ambitious goals and achieve them.
Develop a concise, focused plan that literally guides your actions, and provides accountability for you and your team members.
Use values to provide guidance to your staff – even when you’re not at the office.
Get the right people on your team…and keep them there.
Delegate effectively.

You will hear from:

Bill Collier, with St. Louis-based Collier Business Advisors, LLC ( has real life experience starting, growing, buying and selling successful companies, using his own money. He knows what it’s like to have to “make payroll.”

Bill is a business coach, consultant, professional speaker, author and entrepreneur. His book “How to Succeed As a Small Business Owner…and Still Have a Life” reached the #1 Book on in the “Work/Life Balance” category in 2007.

The business side of corporate community investment

This past Tuesday I attended a SCPRSA luncheon. The presentation was hosted by Bari Love, of Jackson Spalding Atlanta, and she addressed how – even in today’s economic climate – organizations must continue to deliver financial return, while also giving back to its communities.

According to Love, the business benefits to corporate community investment are significant, including increased consumer and employee loyalty.  And let’s face it, in these tough times, it’s smart to invest in activities that keep employees happy as they can be the best brand ambassadors (also, turnover can be costly!).  She also made a point to say that companies involved in their communities are able to create:

  • Brand differentiation
  • Build new and deeper community networks
  • Improve relations with regional/federal governments
  • Enhance credibility and education information
  • Access to knowledge and experience to aid in research and development

She also mentioned it’s crucial to partner with organizations and develop volunteer programs that make sense to your company’s core values, as well as conduct reserach before, during and after the programs so you are able to report back the return on investment.  After all, CEOs and CFOs are interested in how all programs affect the bottom line.

It was a great luncheon and we had an amazing turnout. 

I’d love to hear from some of you to learn how your clients are involved in their respective communities.  How did you identify partners?  How do you measure success?  What have the results been so far?

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!

Ashley Sherry – Corporate Communications Specialist, First Citizens Bank

This Friday’s Palmetto PR Diva Dish focuses on Ashley Sherry, corporate communications specialist for First Citizens Bank.

I discovered that both her and Liza worked at Cookerly Public Relations, but missed each other by a few years! Read on to learn more and have a great weekend!

As Corporate Communications Specialist for First Citizens, Ashley handles public relations, media relations and a variety of corporate communications for the company. She serves as the managing editor of internal publication, First Citizenship. Ashley also develops, writes and pitches stories about topics relevant to the financial services industry and writes various corporate messages for executive management to deliver to internal and external audiences. In addition, Ashley manages internal and external corporate events.

Additionally, Ashley was recently selected as one of Columbia’s 20 Under 40 Rising Stars in Business. For all of her hard work, she was also the recipient of the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award from the South Carolina Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry?
I interned at Cookerly Public Relations in Atlanta when I was in college and loved it. I knew then PR was what I wanted to do.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
Just the rise of technology and the use of social media in PR. It is amazing to me to see the shift from “fact-based” articles in newspapers to the idea of viral marketing via text messages and Facebook. I think this type of PR and marketing is something everyone in PR needs to take note of and use, if is in the best interest of the client or company of course.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
I am actively involved in SCPRSA. I serve on the board of directors as Midlands Regional Director and membership vice chair. I also serve as luncheons chair for the Midlands. The organization has been a great way to get involved and further my professional career, as well as network with other professionals.

I am also involved with Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR), which has allowed me to become more involved with the City of Columbia and network. I also sit on the Healthy Learners Fund Development Board.

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?

Only one? Well, I would say to gain some internship experience. In PR, you can study all day, but you really need to learn hands on. The field has so many aspects to it, that internships are a great way to see it all. Also, try to intern on both the client side and the agency side.

o What is the best thing about your job?
The collaborative team environment is the best thing about my job. I also have a boss that is great at brainstorming and mentoring. I am able to use my talents and skills, but also learn more each day.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
The research. It is necessary, but not my favorite.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
I think this is one of my strengths. In prior jobs, I worked long hours and on weekends, but I’ve had to discipline myself to take time for myself, friends, family, and relationships. I leave work at work, but tend to it if needed past a certain time. I am very career-oriented, but I’ve learned that I can have a rewarding career and personal life. I also think that the people I choose to socialize with have similar concepts of work/life balance, so that helps. We are usually all busy at the same time or all together enjoying life.

o Anything else you would like to add?

PR is a great career. It has it challenges and its rewards and I can’t think of doing anything else.

Need a little PEP in your step?

Liza and I attended the June SC PRSA meeting yesterday where Greg Blake, chief encouragement officer for PepWorks! International spoke. The topic was “ER for PR: How to stay up in down times.”

I have met Greg for coffee twice and each time I left so motivated and energetic just from being around his positive energy, I felt like I could conquer the world (just ask Liza – I called her after our first meeting and I think I caught her off guard on how excited I sounded).

Because of this, and because of his experience in giving motivational speeches and team leadership workshops to a number of Fortune 500 companies throughout the nation, I thought it would be a great idea for him to come speak to SC PRSA.

Let’s face it, with the constant string of news stories about the sagging economy combined with the fact that the public relations industry can present a number of challenges throughout the day, it’s more important than ever to learn the keys to staying motivated.

Some of his words of wisdom are things I’ve heard before but needed to hear them again including: put your goals in writing; don’t stop networking; and keep your priorities in order (hint: career should not be the FIRST priority!). They are all great ways to feel proactive and in control of your life, thus staying positive no matter what challenges you face.

But the one new thing I took away from the meeting is that I need to learn more about my colleagues and clients and their lives outside of work. Nothing too invasive, but little things, like what are their hobbies? What do they do on vacation? Who was their first crush?

O.K. That might be going a little too far, but I think Greg’s point is that when you go throughout the day “business as usual” with everyone you meet, it can be hard to connect and stay motivated…so maybe a little personal touch just might do the trick.

What do you think? Have you incorporated any of this advice into your own life? Do you make it a point to actually get to know your coworkers, clients and vendors beyond just learning their vital signs? And by all means share with us who your first crush was!

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Jo Halmes, APR

I’d like to consider myself a modern working girl, but I have to admit I am a bit superstitious.  And since it’s Friday 13th, I’m not exactly going to avoid all activities and human contact, but let’s put it this way:  If something disappointing happened to me today, I’d blame it on the Big 1-3 in a heartbeat.  And that’s just the way it is.

Enough superstition, let’s talk about Jo Halmes, APR, entreprenuer, business woman and soon-to-be mother of three!  How does she do it all?  Read below to find out.

o        Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:

President of Halmes Strategic Marketing & PR. Provide marketing and PR services as an independent consultant to various businesses and non-profit organizations.


o        How did you become interested in the public relations industry?

By a fluke. I always liked to write and found out through a friend after changing my college major for the fifth time that I could actually make a career out of something that came easily to me versus going into a field that I wasn’t passionate about.


o        What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?

The use of technology. Even simple things like email and web sites have made practicing our profession much easier. It’s pretty amazing to see how quickly you can gather information on any topic and how fast people can communicate with the tools that are available. It’s grown exponentially in just even the past 5-10 years.


o        Are you involved in any professional associations?  If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?

I’ve been a member of PRSA and the South Carolina chapter I think since I began my career. It’s been a great networking and educational resource for me throughout the years. I’ve developed some very strong professional relationships (as well as friendships) with colleagues throughout the state that I know I can call on for support and advice at any time. These relationships are invaluable.


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?

Do an internship. Classes and class projects are great, but there’s nothing like real-life experience to help you fully understand the profession. Even if the internship is unpaid, it will be worth it in the long run. It will help you build relationships while letting you gain experience that you will be able to put on your resume.



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?

It was stressful, but empowering once it was over. I took the exam under the “old” process, so I had to go back and re-learn a lot of theory. The exam itself included case studies, so I was glad I could apply my practical, daily knowledge to the exam. Overall, I think as an independent practitioner, the APR has been a great self-marketing tool, helping me to establish my credibility right off the bat with new clients.



o        What is the best thing about your job?

The flexibility. Even though I have a fairly strict routine in getting my projects done and meeting client needs, I still have flexibility with my time when I need it. This allows me to spend more time with my family – especially my children.


o        What is the thing you like least about your job?

I could always use more time, but couldn’t we all?     


o        Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your own practice or one of your clients)?

      My biggest excitement right now is with my personal life – baby #3 is on the way this summer!


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

I learned the hard way when I started out that I have to keep both very, very separate if I want to do them well. When I’m at work, I’m there 100% with no personal distractions unless there is an emergency. When I’m with my kids, I’m with them 100% as well. I schedule my time accordingly and try to really stick to the schedule. I think this is the only way I can be fair to both my clients and my kids.