The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, possibly one of the best and biggest rivalries in the history of sports, are back again for their 12th time facing each other in the NBA finals. I could write a whole blog post about the history and significance of this historical and compelling match up, but why bother when there are books, articles and even a whole Wikipedia entry devoted to this rivalry? While the days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are over, this classic match up never seems to fail.

The 2010 finals has epic written all over it: best rivalry in the history of sports, arguably the two greatest franchises in NBA history and a series featuring some of the best players in the league. If that doesn’t do it for you, there is the fact that it is the second time in three years that the two teams have faced each other in the finals,  Kobe and the Lakers are out for blood after losing to the Celtics in the 2008 finals, this Celtics team could prove to be one of the greatest in Celtics’ history (a very, very tough “club” to get into), Kobe could get his 5th championship (making that one short of Michael Jordan) and the fact that it could be Coach Phil Jackson’s last  game and 11th title (a record he already holds).

Could it get much better for David Stern?

The Lakers-Celtics finals is a gold mine for the NBA. Sure, a Phoenix Suns-Orlando Magic match up would be interesting to any basketball fan, or even a LA-Orlando series would be enticing. Yet the hype surrounding the Lakers and the Celtics pulls in even those who are not interested in the NBA, but who are interested in seeing history play out before their eyes and watching superstars battle it out on the court. Yeah, an Amare StoudemireDwight Howard match up would have been cool, but that has nothing on a Kobe Bryant-Paul Pierce & Pau Gasol-Keven Garnett matchup.

So what does this mean from the NBA’s perspective?

  • Sold out tickets-and expensive tickets.
  • High ratings-Three years ago, the television ratings for the finals reached an all-time low. The NBA needs this.
  • Crazy media coverage-Just Google it, I dare you. Or turn on your T.V. Or the radio. Better yet, look at Twitter.
  • High selling merchandise-According the NBAStore.com, the LA Lakers and Boston Celitics are already number one and number three on the top selling NBA teams.

These benefits are just from a short-term perspective. The long-term effects of this historical match up are also potentially huge, with the ripple effects extending far and beyond from just this series. It has the potential to get people hyped up about NBA basketball for a long time to come.  The only thing better would be a Kobe vs. Lebron match up, but there’s still some time left for that.

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These days, my worst enemy is the clock. I hate that there are only 24 hours in a day. Sometimes I am also furious at the human body, frustrated that it needs sleep to function.  If you find yourself thinking like me (and if you are in PR, it is likely that you do) then my guess is you also have that never ending to-do list. That is why I was so eager to read Amber Naslund’s post titled “10 Rules for Consistent Execution,” where she gave helpful tips about managing time. While she provided really good ideas, she is also an established professional with a career, something that I am not fortunate enough to claim (yet). So I tweaked her list a bit to tailor it to other college students like myself, especially to the PR students who are more likely to relate to my life’s struggle of time management.

1.) Make lists and keep planners. These things keep my life organized. I have the giant planner with the whole monthly calendar on one page, because I need to see what lies ahead of me.  I always make to-do lists, often multiple ones in a day, which helps me prioritize what needs to get done. Sometimes I never look at them again, but just writing the stuff down that I need to accomplish makes me feel better (I’m old fashioned and still prefer a paper list). Plus there is no better feeling in the world than seeing a completely crossed out to-do list!

2.) Limit your social media usage (for fun). I find myself getting easily distracted checking my Facebook page and somehow a half hour has passed and I did nothing productive-I know we are all guilty of this! So now I am trying to limit my social media “for fun” usage to twice a day for no longer than a half hour. Yet I do not count my Tweet deck or Facebook notifications that get sent to my phone. 🙂

3.) Get a smartphone. While this may not be in the budget for some, having a phone with immediate internet access has saved me so much time with its convenience. I have instant access to my email and can accomplish a lot without having to drag my laptop everywhere. Plus, it is extremely beneficial for managing a client’s social media account and monitoring media coverage.

4.) Do not over commit. You do not have to do it all and you can say no! I find myself eager to do too many things, and then I have my plate too full. Even though I really want to write that press release and do those media pitches, sometimes it’s okay to pass it up to another if I already have a bunch of other stuff to do. And even though I always want to help a coworker out and make extra money, sometimes I just need to say no, I can’t pick up that extra shift.

5.) Get sleep! While some can operate on 3 hours of sleep, I cannot. I am completely useless the next day.  While sometimes lack of sleep is inevitable, I try to avoid it. Because even though I think staying up till 3 AM to finish stuff will benefit me, the next day I cannot even think straight and the other things I need to do will suffer. Coffee only gets you so far and trust me, I know this. I’m a barista.

While some of these tips may seem obvious, it took me awhile to figure out a system and rules that work for me. Do you have any other tips or ideas on time management?

Social media has changed the world as we know it. One world in particular that is being drastically effected is the sports world. And, just like the rest of us, the sports world is still trying to find its head amid this firestorm of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and everything else associated with Web 2.0. It also seems that the sports industry is more hesitant than others on accepting this new, strange tool called social media. However, social media provides a great opportunity if conducted correctly.

The sports industry is unique in that its driving audience is the fans.  Social media has presented an opportunity for leagues, teams, players and other sports organizations to connect to their fans on a whole other level.  For instance, providing up-to-date Tweets allows fans to have instant access to any relevant information. The Boston Celtics, who are often praised for their social media strategies, even provide exclusive locker room footage for their YouTube subscribers. Fans thrive upon inside access. This type of access, and also interaction, creates a valuable experience for the fans, which is essentially what sports are all about.

Social media also provides an opportunity for two-way communication, and the best sports social media pages are the ones that are interactive. This entails being the first to respond to questions directly from the fans, or even address criticism and complaints. Or this can be done by creating contests that online followers can participate in. Putting in this extra effort also shows they value their fans and supporters. Creating personal interactions via online conversations also creates the feeling that people are apart of something. This increases involvement, loyalty, support and enthusiasm, all of which are crucial in an industry relying on fan base.

And of course, there are the athletes who have their personal social media. Fans love access into an athlete’s personal life. I don’t know why, but knowing what Shaq ate for breakfast is so enthralling. Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco, who has a famous online following, takes his social media to new extremes by broadcasting parts of his life on Ustream. When athletes create this “intimate” connection with their fans by allowing access into their personal lives, fans are able to put a face behind the celebrity. This also creates a loyal fan base and following, even from people who are not die hard sports fans.  You no longer know them as a jersey, a number, or face on the highlight reel, but as a person.

Like with any industry, social media has also brought a new array of problems.  While the positive aspect of social media is transparency, the negative aspect is also transparency. How much information shared is too much? The NFL battles this as it has a strict social media policy, which entails that no employee (including players) can use social media networks from 90 minutes before kick off until after post game traditional interviews.  The NBA has a similar policy, except the time starts at 45 minutes before a game. Why? Because they believe players must respect their obligations to the media, or rather the league’s obligations to the media. Milwaukee Bucks Brandon Jennings got fined $7,500 for tweeting his excitement about beating the Portland Trail Blazers in a double overtime before conducting traditional interviews. Athletes and coaches are also constantly getting penalized for saying negative things about their organization or members of the officiating crew.

What the sports world seems most concerned about, like any other organization, is a loss of control. Yes, people may say bad things about your organization. And yes, players may say things that may not reflect so well on themselves or the organization they are apart of.  But what is important is adapting to this new realm.  Some of the sports organizations are, especially by creating reasonable social media guidelines to adhere to and providing social media training similar to media training.

Instead of shying away from social media, the sports world needs to take advantage of it. Social media provides new opportunities to increase fan base and establish a positive brand image, all of which is key for generating revenue in the sports industry. Besides, all these possible implications do is create a demand for great PR practitioners, and there are plenty of us out there ready to tackle these issues!

Earlier this week, prime time television host Campbell Brown announced she was leaving CNN after two years with the network. I admit, I knew very little about her except that she was on CNN (this is partly to blame for my lack of cable).  Yet she captured my attention after reading this article posted on The Huffington Post website, announcing her departure and her coinciding statement.

Her statement was perfect: open, honest and direct.  Brown announced that she was stepping down for no other reason except poor ratings.  She even said that she could have made other more “positive” statements, such as leaving the show for to spend time with her children, but claimed “I have never had much tolerance for others’ spin, so I can’t imagine trying to stomach my own.”

Since then, it seems she has drawn overwhelmingly positive responses. Tweets about her resignation were popular and extremely positive, and even mainstream media was also supportive and generous.  People appreciated Brown’s honesty and directness, something that is often lost in similar statements by public figures and organizations.  Had she given other reasons for her departure, or not give a reason at all, the pubic would began to speculate at the real reason why she was stepping down. She would probably fall victim to the media, who would more than likely draw out her resignation by digging to find the details and reasons behind her departure.  It would be one drawn out topic amid today’s gossip, or probably just would have gone under the radar.

Instead, Brown’s resignation seems to draw a large amount of positive response and even sympathy.  Brian Stelter wrote an article about it in the New York Times, saying “she is leaving with an extraordinary amount of candor” and even suggesting she was a casualty of the ratings, not a cause.   We will probably see her back on our T.V. sets sooner than later, as another network should be quick to pick her up.

And what do we learn from this, as communicators? Forget the spin. Forget the excuses. In a world full of “fluff” and hidden agendas, honesty and openness is refreshing. It draws much more respect. It should also be something that we as comminicators, and even people, should strive for.

The new Arizona law regarding illegal immigration is causing quite a bit of controversy these days. And that controversy is making its way into the world of professional sports. During Game 2 of the NBA western conference semifinals, the Phoenix Suns wore their “Los Suns” jerseys to voice their opposition to the law, coordinating with a written statement against it, and were supported by the NBA Players Association for their efforts. Other teams and players have also spoken out against the law, which is being heavily criticized for promoting racial profiling.  This includes the MLB Players Association (Major League Baseball Players Association), where over half the teams hold spring training in Arizona and significant amount of their players are foreign born. They issued a statement saying:

The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly. If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

However, not everyone in the sports world is taking a side to the issue. Laker’s head coach Phil Jackson claimed in a recent interview that he chooses for him and his team to stay out of the debate saying, “I have respect for those who oppose the new Arizona immigration law, but I am wary of putting entire sports organizations in the middle of political controversies.”

Laker’s spokesperson, John Black, said the organization will stay away from political statements. “Our focus and goal at this time is on basketball, winning games, and hopefully winning another championship, which we feel the vast majority of our fans want us to focus on.”

So is that what sports is all about? Winning games and providing entertainment for their fans? (I personally do NOT agree with this, especially from a PR perspective). Or is it about speaking up for a group of people that also represent a good portion of their fans, players and employees? Is taking a stance being socially responsible or crossing the line?

This is where public relations comes into play and faces questions like these. Do you stand up and defend a portion of your community, like the Hispanic and Latino population? Or do you choose not to become politically involved, claiming neutrality? Either way, the decision will alienate a portion of their audience and brings up some tough PR decisions.

As June graduation approaches, I start to look back at my four fabulous years at the University of Oregon…mmm (smiling and chuckling). Then I start to look at the next four years of my life and my career…AHHH (anxiety attack, short breaths). Okay, so it’s not quite that bad-I’m notorious for being a worry wart. While I feel that I am prepared for the real world, there are definitely some tricks-of-the-trade that I have learned along the way that would have been helpful for me to know from the beginning and maybe would ease my anxiety a little bit for the future.

I recently read a blog post from The Spinks Blog titled “7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now.” The author listed 7 tips of advice, which got me thinking of the things that I have personally learned and feel that would benefit me and other young aspiring PR students. While some of the advice I give is repetitive of some of the things listed in that blog post (all of it was great and very true), I feel that there are some things that I wanted to share that I have learned first-hand.

1. Have confidence

Since I was a freshman in college, I knew I wanted to do PR. I also gradually found out that internships are basically an essential requirement, yet I never actually applied for them till late. I always doubted myself, thinking I didn’t know enough and wouldn’t get the position because I had never taken a PR class or had an internship before. Plus I was nervous about putting myself out there, scared people would judge my lack of experience and young age. Consequently, my senior year has been busy, busy, busy and stressful. I have been trying to play catch up and gain as much experience as possible on top of school and work . Not that I don’t love it, because it is definitely teaching me to be organized, but if I would have had the confidence in myself and my abilities I wouldn’t have passed up some amazing opportunities. I have also quickly found that I could have done  these things all along because I have always had the basic skills (writing, communicating, good work ethic, etc).  People are also always willing to  help you learn the rest  and they also understand if you don’t know everything. You have to start somewhere!

2. Network (both online and in-person)

Whether you know it or not, everything you do in your life is a networking opportunity.  Building relationships with people in your classes, your professors or even random strangers can all come back to be helpful in the end. Who knows, that person you had class with freshman year could have a dad who works for your dream company and could introduce you.  So start talking to people; make friends! Get involved on every social media site. This is not only beneficial because you will understand social media (which is practically an essential in PR now), but you can meet and follow other people  in the industry from whom you can also learn a lot.  I have also heard of numerous stories of people getting jobs and internships through Twitter. It’s not just what you know–it’s who you know!

3. Know your news

Knowing current events and trends is essential for a PR professional. You need to be aware of what is going on in the world at all times, so get in the habit now. Maybe first thing in the morning (or night, since I  know morning for young college students usually starts at 1 PM) check online news sites and your favorite blogs. You can even do this on your phone now, which is especially nice for those long, boring lecture classes (Note: I am not encouraging phone usage during class!)  You never know, five years down the road you might be working on a non-profit campaign and it might be helpful to know what that other great, non-profit organization did five years ago that made headlines.

4. Reeelllaaaxxxx

Public relations is ranked 8th most stressful job in the US in 2010.  Discovering ways that help you relax now will benefit you immediately and also later on. Being a college student is stressful too, and if you are a PR student it seems to only gets worse as time goes on (unlike some majors I know).  I discovered exercise to help me relax. Even though it takes time out of my busy day, it is totally worth it. I blow off steam and clear my head.  Make time to hang out with your friends, or you can even try short, breathing exercises if you don’t have time. But I do not recommend crazy nights out full of binge drinking. The all day hangover only sets you back, among other things… trust me.

5. Get Started..Now!

It is never too early to start  any of these things, especially looking for opportunities to build your resume and portfolio.  Writing that totally awesome article in the student newspaper can become a great piece for your portfolio. Start finding other ways to build experience, whether its an internship or a job shadow.  Meet people and build relationships. Learn about the industry.  Attend events.  Whether you end up doing PR or not, I promise you that you will learn great things that will benefit you no matter what you do.

BP has a lot of cleaning up to do. The company behind the worst oil disaster in history not only has the daunting task of stopping and cleaning up the 200,000 gallons of oil that is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico every day, but it also has the task of cleaning up ALL damages. This includes the damages that have been done to the company’s reputation. As this oil spill  is looking to be one of the worst environmental disasters in history, BP has a lot of PR clean up to do.

A recent post by Todd Defren on  the blog PR Squared discussed BP and its public relations disaster.  Defren points out the mess BP has created for itself (no pun intended), citing two storylines that show BP’s lack of preparedness in its exploration plans regarding  a disaster like this, and claims that the company is offering cash payments to coastal residents in order to avoid lawsuits.

While there may be a lot of things that BP is doing wrong, I did find something that BP has finally gotten right.  And that is addressing the crisis via social media. Yet the company did not address its social media issues until they received heavy criticism for their lack of. Since then, BP has made some major changes with the hope of stopping their downward sprial.

When you click on the BP company site, you are automatically directed to its “Gulf of Mexico Response” page on the site.  The page includes:

  • Photos and videos of the response efforts
  • Maps that track the clean up
  • Current news, including company press releases and updates from the BBC
  • Technical briefing video with the CEO
  • Links to all contact information, including contact info within the company and different external hotlines
  • A claims center feature, including updates and a contact number
  • Other “useful links,” which links visitors to the company’s environmental-friendly policies, programs and other information

BP’s Twitter page is now constantly updated with information regarding the disaster.  They tweeted hot lines for people to call to report an oil spill on land, and also the telephone number for the claims center.  Even more beneficial, you can now follow along with the immediate response efforts. The company tweets out the different steps it takes in regards to stopping the spill.  Not only that, but Twitter is very effective for companyies to respond quickly to new developments, and it appears that BP is finally using the tool effectively.

Deepwater Horizon Response, a coalition between BP and other organizations to respond the oil spill, also has a Facebook page that is constantly updated with posts and different multimedia. The page also links to the Deepwater Horizon Response’s Flickr page and YouTube channel, that is also constantly updated.

Social media for BP is crucial because it enhances transparency and provides a quick and effective means of communication. During disaster relief, it seems that new information comes out every day and it is important for BP to address this with the public as quickly as possible.

Yet, the question is BPs social media strategy too late? Instead of ignoring social media in the beginning (except to divert blame elsewhere), BP should have immediately developed a social media response like the one they have now. Social media is not superman and cannot save you from disaster, yet if executed immediately and openly it could have prevented BP from the hole it has sunk into. 

After watching the NFL draft last week, a few things popped into my head. Of course there was joy for the Oregon players that were drafted.  Then after watching the interviews of the top picks, I got to wondering what is the media training these guys recieve? It’s no secret that there is an extensive background process into every aspect of future player’s background (ex: Dolphin’s GM Jeff Ireland’s now infamous question to draft-pick Dez Bryant, “Is your mom a prostitute?” ).  Teams treat future players as business investments, and assessing their background in attempts to figure out how they will handle themselves in the future is very important to them.  Considering this and the emphasis on positive imaging, there must be some extensive media training to make sure these future NFL players look like future role models and poster boys for the league.

After a little research, I discovered Don Yaeger, media guru and former Sports Illustrated editor who is also the  mastermind behind media training boot camp for NFL players.  This years players included top picks Sam Bradford and Gerald McCoy, along with 26 other players.

His main message to they guys? “You are a brand.”  He compares the branding of players to any other brands, such as Starbucks or Mercedes (Terrell Owens= Toyota?). Speaking to the press is a business opportunity, he tells the guys, because through the media is how one primarily builds their “brand.”  This is beneficial to the player because a positive “brand,” or image, creates higher stock value…a.k.a more teams want this type of guy and more corporations want his face to represent their own brand, all which equals money in the bank.

One of the things Yaeger teaches is how to use words that players  want associated with their “brand.” After learning all this, I went back and watched Sam Bradford’s post-draft interviews to see the Sam Bradford “brand.”

The brand elements I get from this interview: Humble, family-oriented, a kid with dreams coming true. Seems like his media training worked, and someone a team might want to invest in aside for reasons other than his talent.

I think it is crucial for this intensive media training at the beginning of a players career  because it’s hard to redeem yourself with the media and fix a tarnished image. Oh and million-dollar endorsements don’t seem too bad either.

What do you think of the idea of “branding” young NFL players?

“To challenge National Football League players to be lifelong learners while pursuing continuous improvement in family relations, social interactions, personal growth and career development during and beyond their careers as NFL players.”

Those are words that you may not hear very often.  Yet that is the NFL‘s player development mission statement. And as a PR person, we know how crucial it is for an organization to establish and follow its mission statement.  With that being said, let’s discuss the  Ben Roethlisberger situation.

It seems that everyone and their moms have something to say about the NFL’s ordeal regarding Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time Superbowl champ and pro-bowl select.  In case you have been hiding in a cave, Big Ben was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old girl, his second accusation in two years. Charges were not filed, but a 500 page police report had detailed witness accounts describing reckless behavior, heavy drinking and an egotistical NFL star bar-hopping in a small, college town in Georgia.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did suspend Roethlisberger for 4-6 games and had quite the  statement along with it. (For more details of the legal decisions regarding the case and suspension, read this interesting article by ESPN writer and legal analyst Lester Munson).

Now everyone has their opinions on the suspension and the situation in general.  But as a PR person, I am interested in looking at it from the NFL’s perspective as a multibillion-dollar organization, where issues regarding the images of its players are constantly in the news.  Sure, this recent scandal is one of many.  Yet this recent decision shows how the NFL values its reputation, especially taking into account the view of the fans (aka consumers) and the players (aka employees).

While many people are looking at the NFL’s personal conduct policy in regards to this issue, I believe looking at the mission statement is equally important.  Remember, a mission statement defines an organization’s overall purpose and essentially, its essence.  If the NFL had not acted in punishing Roethlisberger, it would be going against their mission statement, a huge PR misstep.  The punishment shows how the NFL  is “challenging (Roethlisberger) to be a life long learner,” because hopefully he will learn from his actions (I’m sure this will be a lesson he will never forget).  This will also help make improvements in his “social growth” but most importantly, “his personal growth.”

And as much as I hate to say it, punishing one of their biggest and most recognizable stars is definitely a way to make a statement.  You get the glory, but you must take the fall. Punishing him not only forces him to take responsibility for his actions, but sets an example to other players in the league.  In this way the NFL also makes another statement–that it is a credible organization who not only values its publics and reputation, but also knows its purpose.

Is social media a requirement for a PR professional? What an interesting question.  The fact is, as a PR student, I have never even thought about it.  I have been so focused on learning the ins and outs of Twitter and keeping my LinkedIn profile up-to-date.  I spend my free time scouring blogs (especially ones with social media tips), searching for  cool widgets, checking my favorite RSS feeds and creating my own Delicious page. Everywhere I turn, it’s drilled in my head that I must be a social media guru in order to be a PR professional and compete in the job market.  But is it an actual requirement? Well, maybe it is not a requirement, but why wouldn’t you?

I recently read a blog debate on Social Media Today where two PR professionals spoke their sides on whether every PR professional should be on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media outlets.  One of the bloggers said no, he did not think it was a requirement.  He claimed that social media does not work for everyone, and nothing can replace real relationships.  He also claims that you shouldn’t be apart of social media just to “be apart of it.” The other blogger claimed that yes, social media is a requirement because in order to understand how it works you need to actively use it yourself.  Also, she says it  is the newest and most most effective tool in the field of communications.

If you want to be technical, I might agree with the first blogger that “you are not doomed if you do not use social media.”  There are plenty of examples of PR professionals and organizations who do not use it.  Yet I do think if you are not actively apart of social media, such as blogs and Twitter, you are miles behind.  Part of being a PR professional is to be aware of new trends and tools that can be effective, not only for the organization you work for, but for your personal use as well.  That is what being a PR professional is all about–staying ahead of the game.

Secondly, why would you not choose to use such incredibly effective communication tools?  As a student, I realize in order to be a value to any organization I need to be aware and fully competent of every possible communication tool out there.  Being an avid seeker of PR jobs and internships, almost all listing include social media background as requirements.

I think the main question is not asking if social media is a requirement, but asking why not take advantage of it? It helps the PR field in the most valuable and core areas:

  • Increasing transparency
  • Ensuring the flow of communication
  • Networking
  • Keeping up on news and trends of the industry

Sure, some may be able to get by without it.  However, by not actively using one of the newest and most effective communication tools out there, what does that say about you as a PR professional?