Affinity Call Recap: Volunteer Recognition

July 16, 2014

By Brant Skogrand, APR, MBC

Skogrand PR Solutions, LLC

Immediate Past Chair, PRSA Midwest District

The strength of a PRSA chapter rests upon the shoulders of its volunteers. With all the heavy lifting, however, it can be easy for volunteers to burn out.

On the most recent PRSA Midwest District affinity call, chapter representatives shared best practices as well as challenges regarding volunteer recognition.

Chapters use several approaches to recognize volunteers, including:

  • An annual peer-nominated “Volunteer of the Year” award,
  • Summer potluck picnics,
  • A winter holiday party combined with the chapter’s annual meeting, and
  • Acknowledgement of individuals at chapter programming events.

Certain chapter committees naturally attract volunteers, such as the student relations committee. Perhaps that’s because professionals are eager to help the next generation of public relations practitioners.

For several chapters, “business community outreach” committees have trouble gaining momentum. In addition, probably because of all the work involved, awards ceremony committees have challenges keeping volunteers.


What do Miley Cyrus and PR have in common?

July 14, 2014

By Revee White – Mid-Missouri PRSA President-Elect

It’s not twerking. It’s the story that was told to us repeatedly at the June PRSA Midwest District Conference about the blurred lines between public relations, marketing and advertising. It’s one that hit close to home for me.

My company is going through a major transformation and is putting a huge focus on marketing. As the manager of the Communications Department, our Chief Financial Officer came to me.

“I want to change your department to the Marketing Department. Your background is in journalism and communications, right? Do you know anything about marketing?”

I know nothing about marketing. And everything. But it took me awhile to come to both of these conclusions.

Joe Cohen, National PRSA President, presented twice during the conference on the new direction of public relations. That new direction includes three big focuses:
Integrated marketing;
Data and analytics; and
Business literacy.

Cohen also drove home a very important point for me: PR has skin in the game of owned, paid earned and social media. We must step up to the plate and think like a marketer.

I took the challenge. My department changed from the Communications Department to the Marketing Department, and I am now the Director of Marketing. I’m no Babe Ruth, but I hope I hit this one out of the park.

Revee White
Mid-Missouri PRSA President-Elect

Twitter: @reveew

Crowdsourcing with a Purpose

July 11, 2014

By: Lewis Pryor, assistant vice president – Public Affairs at State Farm in Bloomington, Ill.

It seems there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t hear about the latest and greatest public relations campaign talks about the power of “crowdsourcing.” The idea is where a “crowd” can provide ongoing feedback on projects, teach and – in the case of public relations – be an active part of a campaign. Some practitioners will talk about this recent phenomenon as a threat, but I believe it produces enormous opportunity for PR professionals when crowdsourcing is done with a clear purpose.

The very core of PR is about engaging various publics. And, the foundation of any successful campaign employs those publics to become aware, behave or act in a certain way. Crowdsourcing is, by its very nature, a moving organization where people participate based on their own beliefs and passions. The key for PR professionals is to create campaigns that align with your organization’s mission while striking a chord with groups who can act.

State Farm looked for new, more relevant ways to engage with consumers regarding their philanthropic donations, and launched Neighborhood Assist (NA) which empowered people to identify issues in their community via Facebook. Then the program connected them with a local nonprofit that can help solve the problem, and provided an opportunity to receive $25,000 in funding support. Causes were submitted via Facebook to the State Farm Youth Advisory Board (YAB). The YAB includes 30 students, 17-20, across North America who run a $5 million-a-year grant program where they review the submissions and selected 100 finalists. Then communities rallied behind their cause by voting on the State Farm Facebook page for three weeks. The 40 top vote receiving causes each won $25,000.

The result? 38,000 people took to Facebook and cast more than 1.2 M votes in three weeks. The 40 winning organizations came from 22 states and the top five voting-receivers came from cities with populations less than 275,000.The CAE website had 418K unique visitors while the Facebook site had 22K socials shares. In addition, nearly 200 unique media placements were garnered. However, the most impressive result was winning a 2013 Silver Anvil Award.

This program provides helpful lessons and tips into effective crowdsourcing:
Be transparent. Every rule and step must be very transparent. Any program that appears it isn’t above board because of lack of transparency will turn people away.
Keep it simple. The process to become engaged must be very simple. Multi-step processes and involved entries will greatly reduce conversion rates.

Engaging your publics. This is easier said than done, but the program has to engage audiences and then keep them engaged throughout the campaign.
Be Unique. Create a program that is different than other programs.

Following these easy steps can help your program stand out and produce outstanding results. But, whatever you create it must balance organizational alignment with what the public cares about. That’s crowdsourcing with a purpose!

Lewis Pryor is assistant vice president – Public Affairs at State Farm in Bloomington, Ill. He also currently serves as president of the Central Illinois PRSA Chapter and a board member of the PRSA Midwest District Board