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?


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.

Road trip!

Liza and I drove down to Columbia today to participate in a panel for this month’s SC PRSA Midlands luncheon.  Tony Mizzell, VP/ Interactive Marketing for Chernoff Newman, and Lyn Mettler, owner of Mettler Public Relations and president of Step Ahead Web Strategies, were also part of the panel.

The event was created to discuss how e-marketing and social media can be used to augment existing public relations and marketing programs. 

And while it was a great discussion on how advances in technology have given us more tools to deliver key messages, I think we are all still learning how we can use these methods to make them relevant and effective for the unique needs of each client.  Not every social media tactic is a fit for every client. 

Also, just because we have these “new shiny social media tools,” doesn’t mean we have to throw out everything we learned about traditional media relations tactics.  Traditional media still has a very relevant role, especially when it’s reaching our intended audiences.  So, if the local Girl Scout Troup wants to announce events or create awareness of troop activities in the community, then it still makes sense to target your local newspaper.

I guess the bottom line is, in order to reach your key audiences and get the messages delivered to them, social media tactics AND traditional methods need to be incorporated based on goals, resources and where your key audiences go to get their information.

Liza and I had a great time as part of the panel this afternoon.  The best part was hearing about others’ successes and challenges in inplementing social media programs.  Let’s hear about yours – if you have any stories or case studies to share, we want to hear them! 

Also, thanks to SCPRSA Midlands for allowing us to participate – and to everyone who came out to join the conversation!

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Jacque Riley, Riley Communications

I had the fortune of meeting Jacque Riley, CEO of Columbia-based Riley Communications, at the SCPRSA roundtable event with Vince Hazleton last month. Apparently, if you want to work with an award winning agency – or get your client on the front page – Jacque is the woman to see! 

Read on to learn more…Oh, and Jacque, let us know how the Asus Eee 900 works out for you…I am super jealous!

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do: As the founder and CEO of Riley Communications, I’ve seen my job description encompass everything from chief coffee maker to writer, designer and strategist. Clients hire me because I really try to capture and convey the essence of the company – the subtlety of PR is a great way to do that.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry? I think my interest in communication really hearkens back to high school debate. I have always loved the element of persuasion! We had to argue both sides of any given argument, which really helped me develop a sense of empathy.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you? In recent years, it seems like there has been an exodus of excellent reporters leaving the journalism field. There are both challenges and opportunities there, but I’d hate to lose that balance and sense of camaraderie that accompanies the best PR/journalist relationships.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved? I’m a member of PRSA and IABC, as well as my local chambers of commerce and the Midlands International Trade Association and World Affairs Council. I think PRSA and IABC in particular do a good job of connecting me to other professionals and highlighting the issues facing our industry.

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? Differentiate your resume! As internships and entry-level jobs become more competitive, a bland Word template will not be sufficient. Even putting your name in color or using a font other than Times New Roman can go a long way.

o What is the best thing about your job? I love being surrounded by creativity and big ideas. I also have to admit – it’s still a rush to see a client’s article in print!

o What is the thing you like least about your job? I hate making collection calls – I have to save them for when I’m having a bad day so I can channel my anger.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your company or one of your clients)? I just got an Asus Eee 900! It’s a supercompact laptop that weighs literally 2.18 pounds. Since I take my laptop everywhere (and have the sore shoulders to prove it), I can’t wait to see how it works.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life? Even though I’m self-employed, I try to keep a very normal, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. That keeps me in sync with my husband and ensures that there are times of the day when work is just not an option.

o Anything else you would like to add? I really believe in the power of a good story. If you can ferret out the right angle and find a story that is truly engaging, people will be drawn to it.

Jacque Riley
Riley Communications
500 Taylor St., Ste. 102

Authorized to Test notification from PRSA

It’s official! I received the “Authorized to Test” (ATT) notification in the mail from PRSA. This means I have the green light to take the APR exam and finish the final step in the Accreditation process.

I’ve already studied two chapters in my “Effective Public Relations” textbook and Brett Turner, APR and Accreditation Chair for the South Carolina chapter of PRSA will provide me a study guide to use, as well.

Of course, I am so impatient about things that I e-mailed him yesterday to ask if June would be a good date to take the exam. He said it took him about 14 weeks to prepare (translation – slow your horses!) so I guess I will just take it one chapter at a time and – hopefully – I can take the exam at some point this summer.

Also, I am in the finishing stages of working with a designer to get my identity package (logo, Web site, letterhead, etc.) finalized and hope to roll that out soon. Hopefully, this will be a good summer for new business leads!!

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Allison Skipper with S.C. State Ports Authority

Brett Turner, APR, who we featured last week, nominated Allison Skipper for the next PR Diva Dish profile and we’re excited to share her thoughts today. As public relations associate for S.C. State Ports Authority, she has a lot to share!

Moving forward, Liza and I have so many ideas on how we can continue to bring you perspectives from a variety of people within the industry and we hope you enjoy. Please let us know your thoughts. Have a great weekend!

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

Public Relations Associate, S.C. State Ports Authority in Charleston, SC
I’m half of our two-person PR department, responsible for all external communications for South Carolina’s public ports system. This includes anything from writing press releases or editorial, filling media requests, giving port tours to visiting business or community groups, planning events and community outreach – the list goes on!

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

I entered my freshman year at Carolina (no, NOT Chapel Hill – the REAL Carolina, as in USC!) as a Biology major with aspirations of becoming a genetic counselor. Upon realizing that I didn’t want to work in the sciences (and that chemistry wasn’t my forte) I moved to “Undeclared – Liberal Arts.” From there, a friend suggested that I try PR, and I’ve been hooked since!

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

Even though I graduated not long ago (2004), so many new and exciting trends have come into play that really change the PR game: the rise of blogs and social media, convergence, etc. I’m excited to see where it all leads.

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

Early on in my career, I became involved in the South Carolina chapter of PRSA. Since joining, I’ve served as director of the Charleston region, young professionals chair, and I currently serve as Vice President and the chairman of the Mercury Awards, our signature annual event. I find that I’ve built valuable relationships by being involved in SCPRSA, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to foster my leadership skills within the organization.

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?

I’m a big advocate of internships. By the time I graduated college, I’d completed three distinct internships in communications, each in different sectors: non-profit, government and corporate. Those experiences not only helped me land my first job out of school (at the Ports Authority), but they also taught me what I liked (and maybe didn’t like) about the profession.

o What is the best thing about your job?

I love the interpersonal communication that my job provides. Whether it’s collaborating on an internal project, or briefing high-level visitors, I enjoy getting to interact with different personalities. It’s also a lot of fun to catch people off guard that might not expect me to be as knowledgeable about port operations – how the facilities are run, or how the port’s cranes are powered. Some people still view ports as “old school.”

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

It’s tough when the media or the public gets it wrong. And I think all PR practitioners would agree with that!

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

Always carve out time for yourself, or else you’ll be a slave to your job! Also, it’s easy to take on too many volunteer commitments when you’re just starting out (everyone loves a hard worker who wants to get involved!), so I’ve learned to say “no” to joining new committees or groups when I’m feeling really stretched.

o Anything else you would like to add?

I feel extremely lucky to be doing work that challenges and excites me, in one of the greatest cities!

Independent Practitioner event with Vince Hazleton

As Upstate co-chair of SCPRSA‘s Independent Practitioner committee, I’m excited to announce that PRSA National Board Member Vince Hazleton will attend a special roundtable discussion and networking event with South Carolina’s independent public relations practitioners on Tuesday, May 13, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Vincent Hazleton, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA is a Professor in the Communication Department at Radford University in Virginia. Hazleton has been active in the field of Public Relations since 1978 and has published numerous book chapters and journal articles on communication and public relations. His two books on public relations theory, Public Relations Theory and PR Theory II, were both recognized as “Book of the Year” by the public relations division of the National Communication Association. His current research and writing is focused on public relations competence, public relations strategies, independent public relations practitioners and social capital as a product of public relations.

Along with his colleague, Florida State University Professor Jay Rayburn, Hazleton conducts extensive annual research on the independent sector of public relations. Hazleton and Rayburn present their data each year at PRSA’s International Conference.

During our 90-minute session with Dr. Hazleton, we will learn about his research on the independent sector and identify the characteristics of successful independent practitioners. Our group also will serve as a focus group to help him learn more about the independent sector in South Carolina.

The event is FREE and will include coffee and light breakfast items. To RSVP for the roundtable, please email me at and I will send the names to Kelly Davis, APR. Also, if you’d like to be added to a list of area IPs so you can receive e-mail updates on other Independent Practioner-related events and announcements, please let me know.

The roundtable will be followed at 11:45 a.m. by SCPRSA’s Midlands Luncheon, which also will feature Dr. Hazleton speaking on the topic of public relations as social capital. The cost for the luncheon is $15 for SCPRSA members and $20 for nonmembers. If you plan to stay for the luncheon, please RSVP to Julie Culbreath at The deadline to register for both events is Friday, May 9.

DATE: Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TIME: 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. Independent Practitioner Roundtable
11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Midlands Luncheon

PLACE: Yates Conference Center at the South Carolina Hospital Association
1000 Center Point Road, Columbia, SC 29210
For directions, visit
Just a short drive from downtown Columbia with free, convenient parking.

COST: NO COST for Independent Practitioner Roundtable
Luncheon Cost is $15 for SCPRSA members or $20 for nonmembers.
Walk-Ups/No RSVPs are an additional $5. No shows will be billed.

Vince is one of the leading researchers into the independent public relations sector, so this will be a unique opportunity to learn how to be successful as well as to do some great networking with IP’s around the state. Hope to see you there!