The journey is almost complete: What I’ve learned from my service-learning project with BRAC

Image

Wow! When I reflect on my experiences this semester in MC 4001 (PR Writing), that is the first word that comes to mind. From the sleepless nights resulting from completing assignments at the last minute, to having the task of completing a mini-campaign, this semester in MC 4001 has been hectic. As a junior mass communications major at LSU, I can truly say that this course has been the most demanding mass comm course that I have taken by far. Although this course has been demanding, frustrating and very stressful at times, being in this course has also been a rewarding experience. This course has prepared me for a career in public relations, and I would like to share a few reasons why in this blog.

As I shared in a previous blog post link, when I sat in MC 4001 for the first day I was overwhelmed. Listening to Dr. Jensen Moore read the syllabus was equivalent to a child listening to a horror story. Thoughts instantly rushed through my mind. How am I going to do all of this work? What kind of grade am I going to get? Will I have to drop this course? Throughout the course, all three of those questions have been answered, and I am satisfied with the answers.

MC 4001 has given me knowledge and experience that will be applicable to my future job. I have gained a lot of experience as a writer. I now have to ability to write a long list of documents that include: pitch letters, media advisories, social media releases and fundraising letters. Before enrolling in this course, I had no idea what some of those documents were.

Image

This service-learning course has also given me the opportunity the work on a campaign with a real life client. Working on a campaign for a real life client has been an exciting and eye-opening experience. My agency, Spotlight BR, has focused on helping BRAC expose visitors and residents of Baton Rouge to entertaining nightlife options.  We have developed a SCVNGR trek that features eight venues that can serve as source of entertainment for adults at night. The trek is composed of a series of challenges that take place at the eight locations. Rewards are given to application users who check-in and complete each challenge at the locations listed. If you would like to find out more information about SCVNGR, here is a link with more info here.

It is amazing that I can finally see the finish line. The end of this service-learning course is near. The journey has been long, difficult and tiring at times, but if I had the choice, I wouldn’t change anything about it.

Below is a link to a video of me describing my experience as a MC 4001 student.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ0CbcWBD2Y

If you are interested in seeing how this course affects the rest of my tenure as a college student and how it propels me to successful career in PR, you should continue to follow my blog. You can also follow me on Twitter @_Ramon_H.

The Importance of Ethics and Professionalism in PR

Aside

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” This quote by Potter Stewart sums up the meaning of ethics. As the son of a Pastor, these words have constantly been preached to me my entire life. Acting in an ethical manner was not an option in my home; it was a way of life. As I transitioned into college, I realized that some ethics lessons that I was taught as a child are also essential to having success in the profession that I have selected.

In this blog post, I will be discussing ethics and professionalism in PR. As a student in LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, we are taught the importance of ethics and professionalism in our career fields. As a PR professional, acting in an ethical and professional manner should be a priority. It is important to present yourself as a competent and trustworthy individual. Following the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) code of ethics is expected of all PR professionals. The PRSA code of ethics is designed to help its members carry out their ethical responsibilities. To find out more information about PRSA and its code of ethics click here.

Professionalism is also a necessary quality to have in every career. The standard definition of professionalism is very vague and ambiguous. To see that definition click here. As you can see, I am not a fan of that definition, which is why I created my own definition of professionalism. Professionalism is the act of presenting yourself as a competent, well-mannered and educated individual in the workplace. In the “professional world” you take on a slightly different identity than in your personal life. It is important to act in a professional manner in the workplace and while dealing with clients, because it causes them to respect you. It allows you to create a positive image for yourself. Professionalism is also essential to relationship buliding in the professional world which is a component of success in PR. I discussed the importance of buliding relationships in my previous post about stewardship. If you would like to read that post click here.

PRSA also recognizes the importance of professionalism. Their statement of professional values represents their idea of professionalism. The six professional values are advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyal and fairness. To read more about those values click here.

Ethics and professionalism have been very important during this service-learning project. Working with our client BRAC has shown me the importance of making ethical decisions and acting in a professional manner. If you would like to learn more about the progress that my agency is making on this project continue to follow my blog http:\\ramonhardy13.wordpress.com. You can also follow our agency on Twitter @SpotlightBR. Also, to find out more about BRAC’s missions and initiatives click here.

A new understanding of public relations through working with BRAC

Image

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, I sat in my Mass Comm 4001 (PR Writing) class not knowing what to expect. I knew that I would gain necessary experience for the field that I plan to enter one day, but I didn’t know to how much experience I would gain. As I sat and listened to my professor recite the course objectives and syllabus, I became aware that this would be a service-learning course. Not only would I have the opportunity to gain experience writing documents that PR professional write, but I also would be given the opportunity to work with a client.

Image

The client that my class has been given the opportunity to work with is BRAC, a nonprofit whose mission is to propel the community of the Baton Rouge metropolitan area to a more prosperous economic future. If you are interested in learning more about BRAC, you may click this link here. Working with BRAC has helped shape my view of PR. Through this service-learning project, I have learned the importance of communication in PR. Communication skills are essential to a successful career in PR. Basically, if you are considering having a career in PR but you do not have good communication skills, then you should consider choosing another field. Here is a link to an article that discusses the importance of communication in the PR practice link.

Public relations professionals are in the middle of the communication cycle. The client communicates its message to us. We communicate that message to the target audience through the most effective medium to reach that audience. The audience receives and reacts to the message. Then we evaluate how effectively we delivered the message, and we figure out if the message or medium needs to be altered. Working with BRAC, has allowed me to see the importance of this cycle. So far in this project, we have focused on communicating with BRAC so that we can effectively communicate with their target audience(s). We want the message that we deliver to align with BRAC’s message.

This service-learning project has also shown me the importance of building mutually beneficial relationships with clients. This relates to my previous post about stewardship. If you would like to read the post, click this link here.  I have realized that Spotlight BR, my group’s PR agency, and BRAC cannot have a successful partnership if we aren’t “on the same page” with one another. For each of us to achieve our goals, we need to have a relationship that functions well. The partnership of Spotlight BR and BRAC has definitely accomplished that.

As this service-learning project progresses, I am learning more about PR and what it takes to work in this field. If you want to learn more about my service-learning experiences, continue to follow my blog https://ramonhardy13.wordpress.com/. You can also follow me on Twitter @_Ramon_H for more updates.

BRAC utilizes a new form of social media

Image

“The best way to have a role in society is to understand how people are talking about things in real time.” This quote from Jean Philipe Maheu, sums up the importance of social media and its role in the lives of people today. For those who may not be educated on what social media is, here’s an article that explains it (link). It’s difficult to imagine life without social media. What would a world without status updates, tweets, photos uploaded to Instagram or videos uploaded to YouTube be like? Without thinking of an eloquent philosophical answer, I would say that life without social media would be boring and incomplete.

Browsing social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn, has become an integral part of our daily routine. Browsing social media sites is the first thing that I do when I wake up is and the last thing that I do before I go to sleep. There is not a day that passes that I don’t check my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Social media is my tool to communicate with people that I don’t see on a daily basis or people who I have never met.

Social media is a communication tool for me, and now businesses and organizations are using it to communicate. Instead of using social media to see what song their friend listened to this morning or what show they watched, organizations are now using social media for promotional purposes. This is exactly what the Baton Rouge Area Chamber is doing with its use of SCVNGR. SCVNGR is not your “normal” social media site. It doesn’t allow you just sit in front of your computer or scroll through your phone. SCVNGR is a geolocation-based mobile gaming application that allows users to earn points and rewards for completing challenges or checking in at various locations. It compels its users to be active by giving incentives for completing treks. To find out more about SCVNGR click the following link.

Image

My classmates and I are responsible for creating treks that promote life in and around the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. The purpose of the treks is to retain residents of the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, and to attract residents of other cities and states to Baton Rouge. The treks that my class are working on include Nightlife, Arts and Culture, Discover BR and Get out of Town.

As I stated in my previous post, my group is responsible for the Nightlife trek. We are focusing on spotlighting nightlife attractions in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area through the use of SCVNGR. We want to expose people in the Baton Rouge community and surrounding communities to nightlife activities that they are not familiar with. The use of SCVNGR will compel them to experience these activities instead of just reading or hearing about them.

Exposure to these unfamiliar places has undoubtedly been made easier by the use of social media and the evolution of technology. Without SCVNGR, we would simply be informing people about these activities with the hope of them taking the opportunity to experience them. Now we expect that they will experience them through the use of SCVNGR.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @_ramon_h to receive updates on BRAC and Spotlight BR’s use of SCVNGR.

An inside scope on service-learning

Aside

Creating a personal blog is something that I never imagined doing. As a mass communication major, I’ve spent time in three different concentrations: broadcast journalism, political communication and public relations. In broadcast journalism, my first concentration, I imagined myself in front of camera. One day hoping to follow in the footsteps of Stuart Scott or Scott Van Pelt, as an anchor for ESPN. Then I transitioned to political communication. That was my “I want to go to law school” phase. After hearing the horror stories of law school, I decided that that was clearly not the path that I wanted to travel. So I was a crossroad. Trying to figure out what concentration would work for me. After speaking with an advisor, I realized that public relations was where I needed to be. It was the perfect fit for my personality and my skills.

As a public relations student in the Manship School of Mass Communication, there are courses, specific to my concentration that I am required to take. One of the courses that I am required to take is PR writing, a course in which I am currently enrolled. The intent of this course is to give public relations students experience writing documents that we will the required to write in our professional careers. Although this is a vital portion of the course, it is not the extent of the course. In this class are also participating in a service-learning project.

So, what is service-learning? Many times when I think about the idea of a service-learning course, I think of it as course in which I will have to volunteer extra time to complete community service tasks. This never really seemed appealing to me. I did not realize that that was the wrong idea of service-learning. A service-learning course helps a student to gain professional experience in a particular field. The service-learning project my class is participating in, is one that I am really excited about.

Our service-learning project involves SCVNGR (pronounced scavenger) and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC). SCVNGR is a geolocation-based gaming application that we are using to attract new customers, increase awareness and create a viral buzz for businesses in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. SCVNGR allows its participants to become acquainted with businesses in their local area by giving them the opportunity to receive rewards and points for completing treks.

We will use the abilities of SCVNGR to help our client, BRAC, achieve its mission of leading economic development in the nine-parish Baton Rouge metropolitan area. In my PR writing class, 18 students have been divided into four groups. Each group is a PR agency is working for BRAC and has a specific facet of life in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area to focus on. The four concentrations are: Discover BR, Arts and Culture, Get out of Town and Nightlife.

My agency, Spotlight BR, will focus on spotlighting the nightlife of the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. We will introduce our audience to mainstream nightlife activities and attractions, as well as unfamiliar nightlife activities and attractions that exist in this area. Our agency is composed of four people who will operate in different roles that will ensure that our client is pleased with our work.

As the design director, I am responsible for look and feel of all campaign materials including creative materials, promotional materials and evaluative materials. This is a position that I am excited to have, because I have the opportunity to work in programs such as Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. This position will also pull me out of my comfort zone, and allow me to gain experience in an area that will be beneficial to me in my professional career.