Words from PRSA Member – Kate Virden

Author: Kate Virden

I recently moved back to Oregon after pursuing a Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. It was an incredible program and experience, but I was more than ready to be reunited with the Pacific Northwest and friendly people again. The friendliest people I have ever met are part of PRSA Oregon.

In graduate school, PRSA membership was a revered aspect that led to job opportunities and professional growth. I knew I wanted to be a member of the national and local chapter as soon as I had the chance.

My chance came when I started working at University of Western States, an integrated health care university in NE Portland as the Content Strategist. The university paid for both memberships just one day before my 24th birthday, which was a better present than I had dreamed of and a great way to kick off my new job.

Since becoming a member, I have had the opportunity to hone my social media skills by running the PRSA accounts at the Spotlight Awards last year. I was asked to be the Volunteer Coordinator for this year to help recruit new volunteers and get them just as excited about PRSA-Oregon as I am. This group of individuals are some of the nicest and hard-working individuals I have ever met with a strong dedication to service.

As a new professional in Portland, this is a group you do not want to miss out on. Hope to meet you soon!

Kate Virden

Transition Steering Committee Report: January – February

Author: Julie Williams, APR, MA

PRSA Oregon Merger in Full Swing

If you’ve ever worked at a startup or started a family, you know that the first year is mostly about learning and making decisions to build a foundation for the future.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, the three local PRSA chapters in Oregon and Southwest Washington merged to form the PRSA Oregon Chapter, known nationally as the “Greater Oregon Chapter,” for the time being. Now we are busy creating a new and truly unified 501c6 nonprofit organization that serves the needs of all its members.

Steering Decisions and Direction

To get work under way, a 12-member Transition Steering Committee was appointed to develop an action plan. Led by 2018 PRSA Oregon President-Elect Julie Williams (me!), the committee includes board members with oversight of transition-related activities along with representatives who have institutional knowledge. Most important, this group also reflects the diversity of the combined chapters’ membership, both in terms of geography and the stages of their careers. A number of volunteers have also stepped up to help. (If you want to get involved, drop a line to [email protected].)

Transition Team

The Transition Steering Committee includes:

  • Treasurer Dave Thompson, APR, who oversees chapter finances and accounting;
  • Secretary Tracey Lam, APR,  who handles operations, including policies and procedures;
  • Communications Director Beverly Brooks, who is in charge of rebranding and communications channels;
  • Web Strategist David Pan, who is guiding the new website; and,
  • Membership Director Siobhan Taylor, who leads member outreach including the upcoming Becoming PRSA Oregon listening tour.

Joining them on the team are the three chapters’ Immediate-Past Presidents, Jill Peters, Loralyn Spiro and Mark Mohammadpour, APR; John Mitchell, APR, Fellow, as a representative from last year’s Statewide Governance Committee (and 2017 Assembly Delegate); University of Oregon PRSSA President Maritza Rendon; and Student Affairs Director Megan Donaldson (2016 New Professional Award of Excellence recipient) to represent the transition from college to the profession.

transition-plan

The 2017 Transition Steering Committee meets monthly to discuss topics and provide guidance on transition-related activities as outlined in the Transition action plan.

First Quarter Momentum

In January and February, the team began rebranding our social channels, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as this newsletter. It outlined an interim Policies & Procedures manual, designed a listening tour to hear from current members (kicking off March 14 in Portland), started building the new website (hopefully fully launched by the Communicators Conference in May) and initiated 2016 tax preparation (for three organizations – yikes!). And that’s just a few of the many projects in progress that are important to the 2017 board’s overarching goals of streamlining operations, supporting recent college graduates and retaining our members.

Ensuring a smooth transition is also a priority for the board, but we’re realistic that some unexpected stuff will likely come up. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we get organized and hope to hear from you in person at a listening tour event.

Stay in the Loop

We promise to keep you up to date on progress through the newsletter and blog. And, we encourage you to keep us in the loop! Please email us at [email protected] with questions or any kinks you discover. We may take a few days to respond while we determine who can help, but we so appreciate the extra eyes and ears!

Yours,
Julie

Julie Williams, APR, MA
PRSA Oregon President-Elect
Transition Steering Committee Chair
Outreach Task Force Co-Chair

PR Working for You

Throughout the year, we will feature successful campaigns to showcase the impact that PR has on businesses and the community.

This month we highlight C+C’s Better Buildings Challenge campaign, which won the 2016 Spotlight Award for video program.

Energy Efficiency Meets Reality Television with Better Buildings Challenge SWAP

It’s been called must-watch TV for the energy efficiency world—the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge SWAP which takes energy management teams from two organizations and makes a swap, looking for ways to improve each other’s energy usage and practices. And, it’s all documented for a reality-TV style YouTube series that’s garnered thousands of views.

DOE worked together with C+C, a Portland/Seattle social marketing and PR firm dedicated to environmental and social cause work, to create the campaign and won a 2015 PRSA Spotlight Award.

Objective: The team wanted to provide a unique, first‐hand look into the increasingly important roles that energy management teams play for both energy efficiency peers and the mainstream business audience—even though energy management isn’t necessarily the most exciting topic.

Strategy: The key was to reach people where they are most engaged—according to Brightcove, social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined. All video content was leveraged through multiple platforms: a dedicated campaign landing page, participant websites and social media. C+C also executed a nationwide media outreach effort, generating coverage from national media outlets.

Budget: The campaign budget was approximately $300,000 for the planning, travel, production and promotion of the video series. The team remained within budget through completion of the project.

Outcome: SWAP exceed all campaign goals. The series has more than 45 million total media impressions, and drove a 2,700 percent increase in YouTube followers. The series has also gained national media coverage from top-tier outlets like Bloomberg, Politico, The Guardian and more. In an article about SWAP season two, Fast Company called the series “great television” and “easily the DOE’s most effective vehicle in years.”

Tune into SWAP here: https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/swap

Our Ethical Obligations as PR Professionals

Author: Kathy Hubbell, APR, M.S., Fellow in PRSA

“Truth is the foundation of all effective communications.” That’s the opening sentence of PRSA’s excellent rebuke of the term “alternative facts.” As professional communicators, none of us would question that. In these challenging times, it’s worth reviewing a few other basic premises in the PRSA Code of Ethics that guides our profession.

  1. Preserve and protect the free flow of communication. In the code, there is specific reference to giving or receiving gifts and entertaining government officials as possible violations here. However, this section also emphasizes honesty and accuracy in all your communications, and the obligation to correct any erroneous information immediately. a. The “Expertise” part of the code recognizes the need for continued professional development, research and education. It is through your research and thorough knowledge of the organization and the issue at hand that you will be able to achieve accuracy in your communication. It is through your education and professional development that you will understand the best channels, strategies and methods for accurately conveying information.  b. Being honest is, of course, assumed. It is our job to speak truth to those who supervise us and employ us, and then to carry that honesty through in all our public communication. If people begin to suspect that you and your organization are deliberately misleading them, then credibility will be difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild. The old saying that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it remains as true as ever.
  2. Avoid real, potential, and perceived conflicts of interest. The points of this is “to build trust with the public by avoiding or ending situations that put one’s personal or professional interests in conflict with society’s interests.” I have a personal story to tell here. Some years ago, I worked on an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) project for the Montana Air National Guard, which of course was under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force, and thus the Pentagon. At the same time, I had started fighting the Pentagon tooth and nail over its mandatory, experimental and dangerous anthrax vaccine. I formed a web site, formed a national group, and even twice walked the halls of Congress. It was obvious that I had better inform the supervising officer of the EIS project what I was doing in my personal life, so I did. She took my written information and forwarded it to the appropriate attorneys in the Pentagon.I waited. A couple of weeks went by, and finally the answer came back down: “Tell her it’s fine – just to keep the two projects entirely separate.” What would I have done if the answer was negative? I would have had to resign from the project or stopped my anthrax work. At that time, the anthrax work would probably have won out, because my own son had received some of those shots and I had gotten to know several veterans whose health was permanently compromised by the shots. But I’m glad it never came to that. The Montana Air National Guard and the Air Force did an incredible job on the project, and it was a privilege to be part of it.
  3. The independence and loyalty statements in the code can be difficult in practice. They are:
    INDEPENDENCE: We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.
    LOYALTY: We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.The independence statement harkens back to speaking truth to power. We are obligated to provide objective, honest facts and truth to those who employ us. We are not “yes” people. I used to explain this to my clients within the scope of our first one or two meetings, and everybody would say yes, they understood. Well – they didn’t always. When a company hires an employee or an outside contractor, the assumption is that the person hired will do as told. We are in the position of being sure we do what’s right first. I overheard a hilarious conversation between a nurse and a doctor this weekend, who had just met at a gathering, and were laughing when the doctor said “Nurses are critical – they save your butt!” The nurse told the story of overriding a physician’s orders at one point, because those orders would have killed the patient. She wrote up her own orders, which could have gotten her fired, but the physician later thanked her for her foresight.We’re not quite in that position, thankfully. But any amount of time we spend training the management team about what’s ethical and legal, and explaining the possible ramifications of any given situation is time well spent.This of course feeds into the loyalty statement: we are faithful to those we represent, but at the same time we have an obligation to serve the public interest. If a chemical has leached into the ground from a company’s operations, it’s in the public interest to be informed of any danger that chemical poses to the public. Whether or not the company wants to release the information is not the point. This kind of situation plays out across the country nearly every day. However, if the public interest is endangered, it’s my belief that the public interest takes first priority and the public relations counsel must work to ensure the company understands and takes the appropriate action.

To echo an excellent speech by NBC news anchor Lester Holt, the best thing we can do in these challenging times is continue to do our jobs. Do your homework. Be honest. Be accurate. Build good mutual relationships. Build trust. Tell your story. Be fair. Be loyal. Advocate for our profession. And serve the public interest as well as those we represent.

Kathy Hubbell

Kathy Hubbell, APR, M.S., Fellow in PRSA, is the 2014 William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award winner. She founded the Montana Chapter of PRSA, has served as the Pacific Northwest District Chair and has served on PRSA’s national board of directors. She is a co-author of the 2016 PRSA Career Guide with Aaron Sewell, and serves the Oregon Chapter by working on the mentorship program and providing guidance on ethical matters. Kathy has a 35-year career in public relations, and enjoys teaching PR whenever possible and working with private clients.