Everyday the world of business becomes a bit more intertwined with social media. When a product is being released, a goodwill event is held or a disastrous event occurs within a company. Specialists in public relations (PR) are called upon to reach out to the media and alert them to the facts.
On Tuesday, March 27th, Delta Sigma Pi brought several speakers from Edelman, the largest global private public relations firm, to speak about the industry as well as some personal stories of how the speakers entered the public relations field.
“The main purpose of the event was to aid students in Baruch that are seeking more information about the profession,” said Andrew Wong, President of Delta Sigma Pi. “Public relations is often underrepresented in the student body of Baruch because the vast majority of finance and accounting majors.”
Wong felt that this would be a good chance for Baruch students to get a first hand look at Edelman. It also gave Edelman representatives a chance to examine the student body.
The field of PR is one that tangos between the lines of social media and journalism, while requiring its practitioners to waltz around the pitfalls of corporate culture. Being savvy in all these areas is a must-have in modern public relations. A PR representative who works within a company, such as Nike, has to know the ins and outs of the product, brand and culture. A representative from a private PR firm must be able to juggle the same responsibilities, while working on other projects for other companies.
Before social media took such a strong hold upon the way information was spread, emailed press releases, phone calls and public events the only ways information was conveyed. While these practices are still staples within the industry, there is now much more of a need for expertise in the ever-expanding world of social media.
Kira Halevy has been working at Edelman for six years in multiple positions, saying that each different position held separate responsibilities, but each contained the basic foundations of PR. Halevy mentioned that a representative must be able to manage client relations and budgets while following the client’s projected timeline.
“Part of the fun is that the job changes by the day,” said Halevy.
Years ago, if someone had a complaint about a company, chances are there were no channels of communication open to let the world know of a gripe. With social media, one person can reach multitudes of people and alert them about a disservice. This truth has not been lost upon the folks at Edelman.
Steve Rubel, the EVP/Global Strategy and Insights for Edelman, spoke of how one of his responsibilities is to scan a plethora of RSS feeds on Twitter.
“We have 600 people in the firm who work on the digital team. Their job is to think about digital and social media,” said Rubel.
Besides using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, the employees at Edelman are active on Tumblr accounts, updating company blogs, and reading multitudes of stories posted on the Internet about a business that they are representing and how the media is portraying their information.
The work of a PR executive is sometimes called “spin” because it is the PR team who will handle the media when dealing with a company crisis and when they do, there have been times when the truth has been skewed in favor of the company over the public. The speakers from Edelman said that deceiving tactics such as these, which used to dominate public relations, are no longer practiced. Now, the goal of a public relations specialist is to provide clarity and precision when doling out information to members of the public, whether they are part of the press, shareholders in the company or even employees of the company.
After the explanation of what a PR rep does, the employees from Edelman began to explain their roles within the world of public relations and how they found their way into the business.
One employee on the panel, Courtney Bell, had a particularly interesting story to share about her foray into the world of public relations. When she was in school, the life of a PR rep was not a job she envisioned for herself. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2010 with a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship. She found a correlation to PR by taking advantage of her expertise in marketing.
After graduating, she went to work for a non-profit organization in Uganda, which is where she discovered her taste for social media and online networking.
“That is where my love affair with media started,” said Bell. “I have internet access once a week and a week old international issue of USA Today.”
With such a small window to the rest of the world, Bell refined her tastes for media and news, which ultimately brought her into the world of public relations at Edelman.
The remainder of the event was dedicated to showing off some of the initiatives that the team had a hand in coordinating such as the Citi for Cities event, where Edelman orchestrated an event to have cities around the world challenge themselves to modernize city infrastructure, support economic development and job creation, and enhance cities’ quality of life, according to the website’s mission.
“We want to show that we are motivated students looking to become better professionals by improving our skills and helping those that need help,” said Wong.