Author Archives: Cassidy Bissell

Media Relations: A Journalist’s Perspective

boston_sports_teamsLast semester, I interviewed Boston Globe sports reporter Amalie Benjamin. As an avid sports fan, I was eager to hear about the ins and outs of sports writing and media relations. Amalie spent many years covering baseball and the Red Sox. This season she traded in her sunny days at Fenway Park for chilly plastic seats at TD Garden.  While Amalie welcomed the opportunity to cover the Boston Bruins, she dreaded the team’s heavy travel schedule to Canada and cities across the country.  This change took a bit of adjusting, not only to the long distance traveling, but also to the media policies. The National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) enforce different media policies that players, coaches and journalists must follow. For instance, the NHL does not permit any media access to players and coaches before games. This rules changes Amalie’s routine and forces her to develop a story based off of less information. Yet, Amalie looks past the inconvenience and focuses on “doing it right” so she can “say I really did my job well today.”  Plus, the less interviews, the less she has to transcribe, something she notes as “the worst thing [she] ha[s] to do, but it’s a necessary evil.”

The team of public relations professionals from the sports teams she covers always made sure she has every statistic, interview and resource she needs to write her story. Occasionally, during a breaking news story or crisis, the sports organization’s PR department tries to protect the team or certain players at all costs. This makes Amalie’s job a lot harder. Fortunately, Amalie understands the hesitation from an internal point of view and still appreciates the assistance of media relations professionals.

First and foremost, Amalie became a journalist because writing has always been her passion. She loves laying out all of the puzzle pieces and putting them together to form a complete picture for people to admire and discuss. “I got into the business to tell stories…that’s important to me,” says Benjamin. All she wants to do is write about the truth and “interesting things that [she] hope[s] people will respond to.” And although public relations practitioners can steer her in the wrong direction at times, everyday she relies on their coordinated interviews for vital information during training camp and the season. In the end, the struggle pays off because “the best thing in the world is finding a story and feeling like you go it right” says Benjamin. “It’s pitch perfect.”

No, I’m Not Majoring In Professional Lying…

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The first time I told my boss at my summer job that I was studying public relations he hastily responded by saying, “So you’ll be graduating with a B.A. in BS?” There are two specific grievances I have with this statement. First, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science, not a Bachelor of Arts. Second, there is a common misconception that a public relations professional’s job is easy because it only requires twisting the truth. Most of the stereotypes associated with our profession are negative. Therefore, anytime I tell someone who isn’t familiar with the principles and practices of PR that I’m studying it, I get the requisite “Oh, really?”.

The most ironic part about being a PR professional in a world that doesn’t understand PR is that the profession of PR has the worst PR. Of course, everyone who studies and works in PR knows the truth about the profession, but conveying the logistics behind our work is difficult to show the public. Everything that an organization does is a form of communication, and all communication contributes something to the brand and culture of that organization. Consequently, every move that a company makes must be well thought out not only from a financial and legal standpoint, but also from a communications standpoint.

The issue with the perception of PR is that people view communication as effortless, and therefore don’t perceive a need for PR except in situations that call for manipulation. Whether it is a corporation, a non-profit organization, or a politician, everyone needs a point communications person. When there aren’t communications people at a senior level, chaos ensues. Without someone present who cares an organization’s image, ethical dilemmas arise. So next time anyone out there questions PR or why you study it, just remember that they may need a communications lesson.

A Diversified Student is an Employed Graduate

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In the world of public relations, more and more emphasis is being placed on diversity in both the organizational and personal setting. In college, that means taking more than just some random elective or going to the museum every now and then. It means getting involved in extracurricular activities on campus that widen the scope of your interests. The most unexpected club or organization could lead to success later in life.

For example, I joined Model United Nations (Model UN). This group is essentially a simulation of political bodies. It doesn’t always have to be a UN committee that you’re simulating, though. I’ve seen terrorist organizations, national cabinets and consulting firms—even the Board of Directors for Google— simulated as committees. In order to compete and succeed in Model UN, you need to know how to win over your fellow competitors to get them to work with you on passing resolutions. In short, you need to learn how to network. You also need to prove that you’re a person that people want to work with by making passionate and convincing speeches on the topic of discussion. Not everyone can elicit an emotional response to the Eurozone crisis, but I’ve seen it done. When staffing a conference, you quickly must learn how to command the respect of a room full of your peers. In crisis committees you must learn to adapt quickly to a multitude of situations and guide your committee in the direction you believe is best for them.

So without even knowing it, I was learning some of the fundamental components of being a good PR practitioner. I can now network efficiently, speak confidently in front of others and communicate my ideas in a way that will advance my goals. This is what happens when you branch out and join new clubs in college. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that you want to expand your horizons and do it with activities that interest you. I’m also a Political Science major, so Model UN was a natural fit. To the PR student interested in medical communications, Peer Health Exchange might be a nice choice. Not only do you expand your mind, but you might unknowingly expand your resume as well. So, in short, never discount an organization or club that may not seem to fit you as well as you’d expect it to. Because maybe you fit it better than you think.

Volunteering for the Arthur Page Society Conference

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As I read through the speaker list, goosebumps formed over my arms. I skimmed the list and read the following organizations next to each speakers’ names: Harvard Business School, Oxford University, former Secretary of the Department of – whatever it was, every name had an impressive title, showing how much they had accomplished in their lives. And that was just the speaker list.

This past weekend I had the honor of volunteering at the 30th Annual Aurthur W. Page Society Conference. The Arthur W. Page Society is comprised of the top communications professionals in the world. Arriving the day before the conference, I was mostly involved with stuffing bags and arranging research material into folders. Just by doing that, I was coming across the names of people I admire and individuals that I hope to resemble one day. Slipping the research into the folders, I caught glimpses of fascinating new ideas and theories. Without the conference even beginning, I was already inspired.

Day two: I was thrust into the thick of things. Running microphones this way and that, escorting members from this room to another, and reprinting the members’ nametags that got misspelled. But in the middle of all the chaos, I got the opportunity to stop for a moment and listen to the speakers. They spoke about new research, their own experiences in the corporate world and how they applied those experiences to their lives. I was in awe. At end of the day, there was an awards dinner for the society’s honorees and I had the chance to hear both of them speak. Listening to their stories of career obstacles and how they overcame, I was struck with one thing. These people, these CEOs and CCOs of the top companies and firms around the world, were once just like me. Students struggling to navigate career choices. Someone who, like them, just knows that if they were given the opportunity to work hard enough, they could affect change in their organization, in their profession, and in the world. I ended up picturing myself up on that stage in 20-30 years and talking about my story—my varied career—and I knew at that moment, I had made the first important decision in my public relations career by volunteering at the Arthur W. Page Society’s Annual Conference.

Does Washington D.C. Have a Communication Problem?

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Image via Wikipedia

As a student of political communications and someone who hopes to work in Washington D.C. one day, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the recent fight over the Affordable Care Act and the ensuing government shutdown. One thing sprung to mind on Tuesday Oct. 1 when the government had shutdown and thousands were out of their jobs, does Washington have a communication problem?

Many people are responsible for the communication problems in our Nation’s Capital. Is the Obama administration at fault? They surely haven’t done an efficient job of communicating the details of the Affordable Care Act and how positive its effects can be. Jimmy Kimmel recently made a parody of the shutdown, asking people whether they supported the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Many of the individuals weren’t able to recognize that both are the exact same thing. This is evidence of the President’s loss in the framing war of his most prized piece of legislation. The Republican Party was successfully able to brand the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare and give it a negative connotation in the process.

However, the Obama administration isn’t the only side to blame. By ignoring key factors in the political sphere, some members of the Republican Party are also at fault. Sen. Ted Cruz, and others in the Republican Party, repeatedly supported a budget bill that looked relatively similar to the Democrats’ budget bill, except for the fact that it defunded Obamacare. Despite the fact that the majority of the public supports the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act, Republicans repeatedly refuse to see that fact. They believe that they are working on behalf of the American people. Either they are choosing to be misleading in their communication, or they are inept at interpreting communication.

So who is really to blame? Could all of Washington benefit from a little PR help? Of course I’m not claiming to know how to do it better than the pros who are working in Washington, but I believe that some of them may have gotten so focused on being right that they’ve ignored what is right before their ears. When that happens, we all suffer.