Communications/PR

Convocation 2013

Lessons from my Convocation Ceremony

Last month, many students graduated from Canada’s universities and colleges. Convocation should be a joyous time, where students celebrate their years of hard work with their families and embark on exciting careers. However,  there have been many news reports about high youth unemployment rates all over the world showering doom and gloom on this year’s graduates.

My convocation ceremony from Algonquin College’s public relations program was held on Tuesday, July 25. Radio announcer Steve Madely, who delivered the convocation address to my class of graduates and received an honorary degree from the college, told us there is no better time to graduate. (more…)

Born Brave Bus

Branding and Lady Gaga’s Born Brave Bus

Lady Gaga is a good example of successful branding and brand loyalty. I’d go as far as to say she (and/or her PR team) is a branding genius. In a few years she has amassed legions of loyal fans all over the world who adore and defend her. Everything she touches is signature ‘Gaga.’ Here is what she’s doing right:

  • Creating an exclusive community: Lady Gaga calls her fans ‘little monsters’ and herself ‘mother monster.’ This creates an exclusive relationship between Gaga and her fans, and a special identity for them to buy into. Lady Gaga also calls herself a misfit who was bullied when she was young, so this community is an accepting place for other misfits.
  • Creating a unique experience: If you go to a Lady Gaga concert, you will hear her speak about empowerment, acceptance, and scream for her little monsters to put their paws up (if you’re not familiar with this, it’s where you curl your hands into a monster claw, like this) – this is another exclusive element that unites the community (think of it like a secret handshake).
  • Aligning with social causes: Aside from her music and crazy costumes, Lady Gaga is known for being a voice for youth empowerment, LGBTTQ advocacy, and anti-bullying – causes that are important to her little monsters. In 2012 she founded the Born This Way Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on youth empowerment, self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring, and career development.Her message generally promotes acceptance for all.

Lady Gaga has added another element to her well-defined brand: the Born Brave Bus. It does all of the above: creates an exclusive community, a unique experience, and aligns her with complimentary social causes.

According to Rolling Stone, “Opening three hours before every U.S.-based Gaga concert (33 dates in total), the Born Brave compound – a mini-festival available to all youth (ticketholders or not) – is a haven designed to provide community, strength and support for anyone under the age of 25.”

Born Brave Bus

The Born Brave Bus – image from Lady Gaga’s Facebook.

Misty from ClevverMusic took a behind the scenes tour of the bus, and describes it as a tailgate party. Once inside, there are different tents outside of the bus, featuring:

  • Interactive kiosk signs letting visitors know what resources are available to them on the bus;
  • Lounge chairs and games;
  • Info tents for various charities;
  • Free food;
  • A photo booth.

I think this is a great way to engage youth and have conversations about important issues affecting young people, while generating more buzz for Gaga’s U.S. concert tour. She is going beyond lip service and putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to advocacy, and it reinforces her brand.

I went to a Lady Gaga concert a few years ago, and it was fantastic. I’d love to check out the Born Brave Bus if it comes to Canada someday. If you’re like me and won’t have the chance to visit it anytime soon, follow the #BornBraveBus hashtag to keep up to date.

*Full disclosure – I love Lady Gaga and am a little monster. Paws up!* 

Powerpoint clichés we would like to retire in 2013 (and a few techniques to try instead)

TED Blog

This talk from TEDxBrussels felt like a breath of fresh stage. A collaboration among science writer John Bohannon, choreographer Carl Flink and the dance troupe Black Label Movement, the talk is illustrated with dance, not slides.

“I think that bad PowerPoint presentations are a serious threat to the global economy,” Bohannon says. “As you’re all aware, we face difficult economic times. I come to you with a modest proposal for easing the financial burden … Let’s use artists instead of PowerPoint.”

Intrigued? Watch John, Carl and Black Label Movement’s flat-out astonishing new TED-Ed video: “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

We at TED love slide decks — PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi (full disclosure: TED was an early investor in Prezi) and all kinds of advanced slide-fu. A great deck helps speakers add visuals to their spoken words, stay on track, and craft memorable reveals. But at the same time, we still see…

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2013

2013 Social Media Resolutions

I hope you had a great New Year’s Eve! I checked out Sparks Street this year – it’s the first time (that I’m aware of) there has been a public celebration for NYE in Ottawa. There was music, food and drink tents, and lots of people. My boyfriend and I grabbed a bite to eat at Carmello’s and then headed back to the festivities. How did you ring in 2013?

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, but making social media resolutions has become trendy so I thought I would make my own. My general New Year’s resolutions are to lose 20 pounds (I lost 20 last year), get my first career job, and blog twice a month. My social media resolutions are to:

1. Continue creating relationships on Twitter.

My favourite social media platform is Twitter, and I think it will continue to be in 2013 (although I am also really loving Instagram). However, I have noticed I am falling into the trap of sharing links more than interacting with people, so I will work on cultivating relationships. When it comes to focusing on social media platforms, choose quality over quantity for you or your business – it’s better to be great in a few places than be mediocre in many.

2. Try out other social media platforms.

The networks I use regularly are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Linkedin, but there are other networks out there like Reddit and Google + that I haven’t taken the time to explore. I have friends who are really into Reddit, so I would like to know what they’re so excited about and how to use it well. I don’t find Google + very interesting, but I want to become familiar with its features. If something else becomes big in 2013, I will make sure to check it out.

3. Expand my knowledge of social media.

Staying up to date in your field is essential for success and personal growth. If you stop learning, you stop growing. I already do a pretty good job with consuming lots of content from different places, but I would like to set aside a half hour each day for reading the latest news and trends.

What resolutions have you made? I hope you have a great 2013!

2013

hell

My Hell Week/Major Project Week Experience

Hell week is infamous for those familiar with the Algonquin College public relations program. For those who aren’t, let me give you an overview:

  • Instead of having traditional exams during exam week, the second-year class is split into groups of four or five (assigned by the program coordinator), and they must respond to a request for proposal. Each team must put together a response (an entire campaign, or a large communications plan) and pitch their idea(s) to the client. The response includes elements such as corporate social responsibility, publicity, advertising, and social media, to name a few. Projects typically range from 60 to 100 pages.

This may not sound too bad, but let me tell you about past hell weeks. Hell week (which is being renamed major project week) got this name from students stressing out, crying, hating their groups, and having a week from hell. At one point, they only had five days to do it. It isn’t that bad anymore (we had eight days), and this is why it is now called major project week.

It was a long week, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. My group received an A and we didn’t shed any tears, kill each other, or pull any all nighters. Here are my tips for a smooth major project week, which are applicable to any team project:

  • Recognize your team’s strengths and weaknesses. I knew my strength in this team was writing and editing, so I played to that. Others enjoyed the creative aspect of making advertisements, or were idea people. It sounds like common sense, but don’t assign someone a task he or she is bad at.
  • Manage your time. Our longest day was 12 hours (9 a.m. – 9 p.m.), but I know of other groups who were pulling 16 hour days and all nighters. Working yourself too hard for too long will only burn you out, make you unproductive, and will guarantee you make mistakes. How can you edit for details when you can’t focus because you’ve been up all night?
  • Try to get along. I think I was fortunate members of my team didn’t have any prior issues with each other, but try to be respectful and get along. We had some tension early on in the brainstorming process when we were hashing out ideas, but that was about it. We’re all adults here, and no good comes from being rude and angry.
  • Don’t get attached to ideas. This can be difficult for anyone, but particularly difficult for some people who get emotionally attached to their ideas. Not everyone in your team may like your ideas, or your original idea may be shaped into something new (and hopefully better).
  • Ask questions.  We were allowed to email our coordinator some questions (which he would share with the class via email), but don’t forget to seek feedback on things from your team members. A couple days into the week, my group was printing off parts and passing them around for feedback. You have different personalities and perspectives for a reason – use them to your advantage!
  • Take a break. We’re not machines, and we need to take breaks (mentally and physically) once in a while. Talk a walk or get something to eat. I particularly enjoyed when my group would break at 6 or 7 p.m. and go to the Observatory (a campus restaurant/bar/hangout) for dinner. We would meet up with other classmates, have a laugh, and get back to work.

Major project week was a good experience, and I’m proud of my team. We worked well together and did a great job. It was also nice to work with people I never worked with during the rest of the school year. If you’re an ACPR student reading this, you’ll be fine, and feel free to contact me with any questions. For everyone else, please leave your comments and suggestions for team projects below!

Exams Are Coming: Are You Ready?

My official exam week starts in eight days, but I actually have exams this week. In the Algonquin College public relations program, exam week is notoriously known as “Hell Week,” where students are assigned to teams and have a week to complete a campaign. I’ve had graduates tell me stories of people crying and fighting, and others tell me not to worry and manage your time well.

I’m not going to worry and manage my time well. I am pretty calm and level-headed, but if you aren’t, you may be feeling a lot of anxiety this time of year. Here are some tips to stay cool as a cucumber:

1. Stay organized. This may seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t bother to write due dates or exams in a calendar. You need to have a plan! I use a Macbook, so I schedule everything (exams, major assignments, group meetings, work, networking events, bill due dates, etc.) in iCal, and also have a list of homework and exams in my reminders section to the right. This way, I can see everything by date and can plan when to work on things accordingly.

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2. Relax and focus. This is a lot easier to do if you are organized, but you really need to relax. Take a deep breath and have a cup of tea, take a quick nap, or hit the gym. People who are always stressing and panicking stay in an endless cycle: they stress out about how much work they have to do, complain to other people about how stressed they are, stress these other people out, and stress themselves out even more.

Try to relax, focus, and just sit down and get the work done. If you’re organized and have lists of what’s due, start with the most important things first. You won’t get anywhere if you’re running in circles like a chicken with its head cut off.

3. Don’t procrastinate. So you’ve made a calendar and schedule, have relaxed, and are sitting down to focus on your work – but it’s due at 8 a.m. the next morning. Don’t leave things until the last minute! This will only stress you out (as discussed above). Some people say they work better under pressure, but if you’re rushing to get things done you will make careless errors, not have time to properly proofread your work (or have someone else look at it for you), and not have time to ask for help. I like to finish assignments early so I can come back with fresh eyes the next day.

When it comes to exams, it’s easier to study for 30 minutes a night than for seven hours the day before. You will also remember the material better this way. When you’re out of time and stressing out, you’re not going to retain information or perform as well for the exam. The best exam tip I can give comes months before the exam – pay attention and be active in class. I don’t speak out a lot in class, but I pay attention, listen, and think. If you’re engaged in what you’re learning, you will retain it and not have to study as hard later.

These are things that help me be successful during exam time, but I would love to hear your tips and tricks. Personally, my method comes down to self discipline and good time management skills. I make a plan, start things early, and force myself to sit down and get things done. These are skills that will also benefit you in your career once exams are behind you.