Monday, May 8, 2017

To be continued...

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It's the finals week blitz for all of us at OU. We are all stressing our lives away this week as we prepare to say goodbye with a bang. Fortunately, this week is not so stressful for me. At least not in PR Pubs. 

Our only assignment this week was our Summary of a Learning project. I decided to do a brochure about the creative process since, in my opinion, is where I grew the most. As I detailed in my Summary of Learning post from last week, the technical things we learned were very important, but what purpose do they serve if we cannot successfully navigate the creative journey? That was the focus of my piece. I made a sort of "treasure map" that takes you from the nebulous first stage of creating something to the final stage where you feel satisfied with your creation. I meant it to fit any sort of creative endeavor. 

I am very satisfied with my growth as a creator. I feel that I re-oriented myself in my thinking about being creative. Before, I thought of it in terms of my end product. Now, I see it in terms of the journey. I've learned to be more open to epiphanies, outside criticism and my own eye, which can now easily determine if something is my best work. I feel that this experience is irreplaceable and will serve as a vital asset in my professional future. 

Creative Journey Pamphlet
Journaling about my experience in PR Pubs helped me to keep track of my growth. I got to see the transition I made in my thinking as well as the improvement of my technical skills across all platforms with which we worked, from InDesign to PremierePro. It also allowed me to remember how I created certain pieces so I wouldn't have to recreate the wheel if ever wanted to design something similar or use the same techniques in developing a new piece. Journaling gave me an opportunity to express myself through writing, which is also very therapeutic. Granted this blog is nowhere near a tell-all diary for me, but stepping back and looking at my processes took my mind off other stressful things happening around me. 

It is my plan to continue the upkeep of my blog or possible migrate to a different platform. I'm glad I have an online presence apart from my personal website to showcase my work. I cannot wait to update my site with my new work from this course. I might not blog as much as I did for PR Pubs, but I will keep writing. It will strengthen my portfolio and show potential employers that I am capable of maintaining an online presence.  

The format of this course was innovative. It helped to keep stress off me and limit my outside-of-class work on pieces. The grading policy was probably the fairest of any course I have taken thus far in my college career because my instructor knows that creativity is subjective. It would be unfair to assign a letter grade to work we put much into. Knowing that as long as I gave it my best and submitted work on time reduced stress. It also allowed me greater time bravely to explore the creative journey. 

This particular PR Pubs course will be an asset in my future public relations career. The techniques and processes I learned will set me apart from competitors in the job market and give me the chance to bring innovation to any future employer. 

My story is just beginning. For now, it's to be continued...

Happy summer, everyone. 

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Friday, May 5, 2017

The Summary of PR Pubs Learning

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We're almost at the end of the road in my PR Pubs class. This course has taught me so much, from the technical parts of using the Adobe Creative Cloud, to filtering my creative energy to design solid, aesthetically pleasing pieces that strategically communicate a message to an audience. The technical aspect has broadened my skills across all platforms, which is great. What is even better is that this course has taught me to develop my eye for design and meander my way through the creative process. 

Before this course, I had taken a graphic design class when I was working on my associate degree at Eastern Oklahoma State College. I was fairly proud of some of my pieces from that class, but I still knew that I could do better. I wasn't quite where I wanted to be in the quality of my designs. The video from "This American Life" that we watched the first week of class before ever starting an assignment put these feelings of mine into words. I was looking forward to getting my designs closer to what I recognized as high quality. 

Another thing I struggled with was the creative process. I knew what the creative process was, but I thought of it all in terms of an end-product. It's not about the destination, but the journey. Though that saying is trite, it is nonetheless true. During that first week, we also watched the commentary from "Inside Out," where the filmmakers discuss the long, arduous process of creating the movie. After trying many ideas and having a few epiphanies, the director and crew were finally able to come up with a film that satisfied them as well as told the story they so wanted to tell. Watching this process made me think of my own creative process. I needed to be more open to playing around with my designs instead of focusing on a path that will get the job done. 

As for the more technical stuff, we learned the keys to design the next week of class. I am referring to the design principles: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. I had struggled with these principles in my past graphic design class. Something I perceived as good contrast wasn't good contrast to experienced designers. Something I felt had good repetition but didn't, etc. Seeing these designs in practice realigned my design eye to think about the principles. I knew I could start applying them in my projects. 
Air France Business Card (Front)

Speaking of projects, we jumped right into our first one the fourth week of class. It was the  business card we were to design for a brand of our choosing. I chose Air France. This project taught me about the concept creation part of the creative process. As I remember, we were to filter through ideas on Pinterest to get an idea of what our design should look like. At first, I didn't like using Pinterest, and then, when I got into it, I really loved Pinterest. I started like 20 boards since the business card, most of them about graphic design and branding. After getting through that concept phase and shifting my ideas a little, I produced a business card that reflected Air France's brand. 
Air France Letterhead

In a similar vein, we expanded on the business card idea with the next design project of a letterhead for the same brand. This project progressed easier since we had already done the brand research for our designs. The letterhead just had to be on brand with our business card. This was the point where I felt that my design skills were advancing in the right direction. My concept skills had become stronger, and I worked through the design process thinking about it as a journey instead of an end-product. 

Our third project was by far the hardest for me to complete. It made me realize that maybe agency life is not for me. This project, the direct mailer for the OU Residential Colleges, required a lot of me. I had strong feelings about the Residential Colleges that I needed to get over in order to focus on communicating their message. To help the process, I made marketing personas whom I would be targeting. The design process this time was taxing, to say the least. After getting through
Dunham Hall Direct Mailer (Front)
my own feelings, I feel that I produced a design that accomplished the task of communicating to my target audiences. 

That assignment was tough. Luckily, the next one was so much fun. At the same time, I feel that I grew once again in my design skills. For this assignment, we made social media pieces for a brand on Canva. I had been advising an artist and family friend on his public relations efforts. I decided I wanted to do my pieces for him to use on his social media pages. I was fortunate that one of his paintings was in a show in the Fred Jones Art Center. I went over there one day and photographed his work to possibly use in my designs. In the end, I incorporated the painting into two designs. I made a social media profile picture, an event post and a Facebook cover image. He was very pleased. In addition, several of his art colleagues commented on his posts, asking who designed them. He was not shy in saying that I was responsible. 

Jason Wilson Social Media Profile Picture
Our last assignment before this "Summary of Learning" project was a video, inspired by the StoryCorps project. Everyone in the course was paired up, and we videoed interviews with each other. From that interview, we had to build a coherent story. This project was difficult for me for two reasons. I hated working in Adobe PremirerPro. In my experience, PremierePro is the least user-friendly of the Adobe Creative Cloud, save maybe for After Effects. Next, I wasn't at all confident in my storytelling abilities. What I had failed to realize is that I had been doing it all along. I played through my interview with Sierra Abbot multiple times and condensed that nine-minute-long interview into a two-minute long story. Anytime I didn't know how to use Premiere, I asked my instructor. I looked up videos. I played around with the program until it did what I wanted it to. It was a lesson in being resourceful. I am very satisfied with the resulting story. This project paved the way for the video I did for my Choctaws of OU banquet. 

Our final project, the Summary of Learning piece, is on my mind. I want to do a piece that details what I have learned about the creative journey. The form will be a brochure. As for its contents, I'm still concepting. 

I am very proud of the progress I made this semester. Out of all my pieces, I take the most pride in the Canva social media items. The project I feel I could probably improve would be the direct mailer. Now that I am over my feelings about the project, I can rework it to make it look a little less generic and more branded. 

As a public relations professional, I have grown in my creative abilities in this class. My enhanced understanding of the creative process will transfer to other domains of the field, such as writing, advocating, event planning, etc. I will always look at my audience and the people to whom I wish to reach. All my efforts will be geared toward telling a story with the two-way, mutually beneficial communication between my organization and target publics at the head. 

This course was so much fun. I'm sad that it's almost over because it gave me an outlet for my creative energy. It also inspired me to utilized my sharpened skills in real life situations. This year has been fun. Really fun. 

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Summary of Learning

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Here we are. The final Summary of Learning for Public Relations Writing. This semester has flown by, and I can't believe summer is just a week away for me... I have grown as a writer, a student and future public relations professional throughout this course. I am very excited about the writing skills I have learned and have even relied on them several times in my real world experience. 

Starting PR Writing, I was somewhat confident in my skills as a writer and storyteller. I needed continued practice to refine my talents. I could write something and recognized that it needed more. A lot more. At this point, I knew a public relations professional would be expected to write items such as news releases, media pitches and position papers. I didn't even think of the other important tools a public relations professional would need in a future career, like fact sheets, radio PSAs and cutlines to name a few. I was ready to learn about the different forms of public relations writing.

The first couple of weeks of the course served as a good foundation for the writing assignments that would follow. During this time, we reviewed AP Style and important grammar and punctuation guidelines. Having had Writing for Mass Media the semester before, many of these rules and principles were still fresh in my brain. However, many of them had faded away. I wouldn't have been able to create quality work without this comprehensive refresher. 

Next, we looked at the problems of brevity and clarity. When they come together, they give conciseness to a piece a writing, meaning readers can glean information quickly and succinctly. It's always a good idea to cut 10 percent from a first draft to help in this domain.

After looking at the technical aspects of writing, we looked at the ABCs of journalism and news values. As public relations professionals, it is imperative that we be able to determine what is newsworthy about an event and utilize that element to create a dynamic, engaging story that journalist and other audiences will want to read. We also examined the parts of the most expected tool in our public relations toolbox, the news release. Once this unit was over, we were able to plunge directly into our first writing assignments, the writing of news releases

Writing news releases is no easy feat. We were given information to write two news releases that unit. To do this effectively, I read over the information to glean the most important points in order to answer the 5 Ws and H in a way where the reader could get the information in order of importance while still leaving a bit of information at the end to keep the reader engaged. The first release was difficult since it was a general release about the Tipton Children's Home, and choosing a news element was difficult to come by. The second release was much easier since it was about an event the home was hosting. There, I was able to stress the elements of proximity and currency relatively easily. These first two releases taught me how to extract important points to create an engaging piece that answers any questions a reader might have. 

The next pieces we focused on were media pitches and media advisories, where we try to grab the attention of journalists, in either pitching a story to them or advising them on an upcoming event. Both are relatively short, but it is nonetheless necessary to find the crucial, must-know info to give to journalists who might write about an event your organization is hosting. I utilized a media pitch this semester when I served as director of communications for my Choctaws of OU group. I wrote a Facebook message to the OU Daily about our Choctaw Day that was coming up, keeping in mind all of the parts of a media pitch. Within the next few days, I received an email about scheduling an interview. I was proud that I successfully employed my public relations writing abilities to get coverage for Choctaw Day.

After pitches and advisories came fact sheets and backgrounders. These two pieces were difficult, to say the least, because of the information they must provide. Fact sheets just give bulleted facts; whereas, backgrounders are comprehensive pieces that give history, facts, and current aims of an organization. Once again, we must decern which pieces of information are pertinent to include. These two pieces will serve us often, especially when compiling media kits. 

Next, we moved into position. Position papers, that is. As if writing a comprehensive piece wasn't hard enough, we had to actually argue a point in a position paper. We had to state the issue, summarize counter arguments to debunk, and then move into three points to argue. This assignment helped me in my French course, surprisingly enough. For that assignment, we had to write an argumentative composition that detailed whether or not we believe American democracy to be crumbling because of wealth inequality prevalent throughout the country. Because of my experience in writing argumentative pieces, I was able to effectively detail my argument and state strong evidence in support of it. 

In going even more in depth, the assignment after the position paper was a feature story. I chose to write mine about a figure on campus, my Choctaw College and Career Resources adviser, Hannah Blackwell. I chose her because she is leading Choctaw students in their experiences as college students, while still a student herself working on her Ph.D. in education. I interviewed her and the people with whom she works daily, the students. I feel that I was able to tell her story in a compelling way, using a good scene lead and transitions throughout the piece. I showed the feature to Hannah, and she was impressed with it. 

Picking back up again with opinion pieces that shed light on a particular argument, we wrote op-eds and letters to the editor. Ironically, these two pieces were due the same week as my argumentative French composition. I argued a lot that week, suffice it to say. For these two assignments, I made sure to choose topics about which I am very passionate. My letter to the editor was in response to an article that appeared in the Tulsa World. Someone wrote a column about why athletes should be paid in addition to receiving scholarship money. I wrote about this would even be more unfair than the current system. In my opinion, athletes receive so much as it is and lesser-advantaged students don't receive enough. It's not a popular opinion, but I digress. My op-ed was focused on teacher pay and why it is imperative that Oklahoma raises teacher pay soon. This was easy to write because I see the struggles of a new, underpaid teacher: my sister. I feel that I was able to argue my points in a powerful way because of this. 

The last two units of public relations writing focused on audio and visual pieces. Unit 4.1 dealt with broadcast scripts. For that assignment, we had to write a PSA about the upcoming PRSSA Panel on Inclusion. Writing for broadcast is quite a different animal than writing for reading. In broadcast writing, you have to keep in mind that you are writing for someone to read. Thus, the piece must be conversational and easy to read. My 27-second-long PSA focused on the importance of diversity in the media before introducing the event. 

The last assignment was the most fun in my opinion ( maybe because I'm a photographer), and that was writing cutlines for photos. We were to take pictures at an event, pick nine photos and write cultines for them. Since Choctaw Day was close, I decided to do my cutline project over it. I captured some really interesting scenes and activities that day. I am very proud of the work I did. I made a picture slideshow video showcasing those pictures and more for the Choctaws of OU end-of-year banquet. My Choctaws of OU Adviser printed one of the pictures as a gift to Choctaw instructor Freddie Lewis for his help throughout the year. 

Of all the projects I discussed in this post, I wish I could redo the news releases. Since these were the first assignments, I would have given them more time. Knowing what I know now, I could have made them so much better. This is evidence of my growth since beginning this class. I had to learn to become resourceful as writing while keeping in mind I am writing for an audience. I had to discipline myself to go the extra mile to ensure that I was producing my best work. 

Overall, Public Relations Writing taught me to refine my writing and adapt it to different purposes. In addition, I learned to always to be my worst critic, to complete assignments on time and to have confidence in my abilities. Though I still feel like my writing can have more, I recognized that one does not simply become a writing pro overnight. It takes years of practice and dedication to get to that point in writing. 

I look forward to advancing further in my writing career after taking these first important steps. With all that I have learned, I know I will be an asset to my future employer. Because of the diverse writing activities in this class, I will adapt my writing to suit whichever occasion and whatever purpose. I am ready for my future. 

Photo from Pexels.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reflection, Unit 4.2

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This unit of PR writing was so much fun. We did a photo story and wrote cutlines for each picture we used. The last unit was about sound with the radio PSA. This was all about the visuals.

Our assignment was to piece together a photo story on a PowerPoint slideshow and write cutlines for each photo. The story had to revolve around a campus event. I chose Choctaw Day as my event to use.

This was the first year for Choctaw Day. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and OU Office of University Community sponsored the event, which took place on the South Oval, April 19. The purpose was to connect the OU community with Choctaw culture through cultural activities, such as stickball and social dancing. Since I am one of the few public relations majors in our campus group, Choctaws of OU, I handled the public relations efforts on campus by making flyers, pitching the story to the OU Daily and taking over OU's Snapchat for the day. 

The day was a huge success. We received lots of positive feedback, especially on the Snapchat takeover. I took around 600 photos to use in a recap video that I will be putting together for the Choctaws of OU end-of-year banquet.

The first step in completing this assignment was to choose the photos that told the story well. I chose nine, the number needed for completing this assignment. I then put them in the proper sequence and began writing my cutlines, starting with the first sentence in the present tense that describes the action in the photo, followed by subsequent sentences that give context or broaden the story. Since I took so many interesting photos, this was not difficult at all. 

I finished the assignment by formatting the slideshow properly and fixing a few issues in the cutlines themselves. I was very pleased with the final product. This skill will be immensely helpful in my future career since PR people are often the ones holding the camera at events. Knowing how to tell a story using photos and cutlines will be crucial. 

Writing cutlines has always been something that I feel I'm good at. This assignment gave me the opportunity to continue practicing this valuable skill.

I can't believe the semester is almost over. Only next week and finals week to go...

Off the Cutting Room Floor

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The end is finally here. The end of the PR pubs video project

It has been a long road, but arriving at this point was definitely worth it. I am very pleased with my final video. The skills I learned throughout this project will be immensely useful in the future, especially for a noob like me when it comes to video. 

I worked on the video a little Monday afternoon. Even though this week has been intense for me, having a ten-page paper over World War II, a French composition, a PR Writing assignment, a social media marketing campaign and my Choctaw banquet all on my plate, I managed to find plenty of time to refine my video. On Monday, I made sure that all of the media I wanted to include in my video was on my timeline in Adobe Premiere. I tweaked it some, still needing to fix a few issues and make sure my content was succinct. 

On Tuesday, in class, we took a short break from the PR pubs grind to hear the story of Kasey Kinney, a Gaylord grad who has been in the workforce for a while now. Her degree was in public relations. She is now currently working in real estate, where she has had ample opportunity to apply her public relations skills. Her story was very touching, and I am very pleased that she shared it with us. 

On Wednesday, I found more time to refine my video. I made a few adjustments to help the flow. After completing all these changes, I rushed off to put the finishing touches on my World War II research paper. The topic I had chosen, was looking at print advertisements from Time, Life, and The New Yorker, from 1941, to examine how brands crafted defense-related messages to create brand awareness, generate brand loyalty, and stimulate purchasing.  I hope it is well-received. The paper was due at 9 a.m., a few hours before PR pubs on, on Thursday. 

I put the finishing touches on my video on Thursday during class. I exported it and added it to YouTube. I am very happy with the final product. It's not by any means perfect, but it did teach me how to piece together a good story. The thing I am proudest of is how the story is strung together. 

These skills will come in handy this week as I will be creating a video over Choctaw Day for the Choctaws of OU banquet. I will squeeze that in sometime around the French composition that is due on Friday... I am so ready for summer. 

Gif from Tumblr.

Friday, April 21, 2017

On the Cutting Room Floor

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With our StoryCorps interviews filmed, we began the process of putting together and editing our interviews into coherent videos for our latest PR pubs project. Onto the cutting room floor for us.

On Tuesday, I watched my entire interview with Sierra Abbott again, thinking of a possible theme that would shorten the nearly 11-minute-long interview into a two-and-a-half-minute video. Since I asked many questions about her life at OU, I decided on that theme and made a list of all the segments from the interview that centered on that theme.

The result was a group of sections that focused on why she chose OU, how she established herself at OU, what she likes about OU, her proudest Sooner moment, etc. After choosing the sections, I brought the interview over into my Premiere timeline and began cutting clips. This took nearly the entire day on Tuesday.

With my clips selected, I had some free time Thursday before class to edit some more. I changed the order of the clips and cleaned some of them up. My video was now down to three minutes. I had to make some serious decisions on where to cut. My focus was Sierra's experience at OU. Keeping this in mind, I cut a section where she talked about her plans after college. This saved me about 30 seconds worth of video. After a few more tweaks and cleaning, my video was about two-minutes-and-twenty-seconds long. 

I brought in some B-roll I took around campus and around Gaylord Hall. I feel that I didn't have enough B-roll. In addition, the B-roll I had was very impersonal. I asked Sierra if she could get me some pictures of her doing things with her sorority and at Soonerthon since she was heavily involved with that initiative this year. She gave me several pictures that I will be able to easily incorporate into my video. 

For the background music track, I searched through the music provided by our instructor to find something that would create a good tone to the interview. One track was a soft guitar. It would create a laid back atmosphere for the video that was neither too serious or unprofessional. 

My StoryCorps video project is near completion. With a little more editing and modifying, I think the video will be good quality and probably better than anything else I have created thus far in my creative career. I am hoping to have it completely finished by the end of next week which should be easy to do. I just have to finish a 10-page paper, a French composition, a PR writing assignment, the first half of a book and content for a social media marketing campaign. Just the usual work for an up-and-coming PR pro.  

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Lights. Camera. Action.

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Now that we have had a good walkthrough with Adobe Premiere, this week in PR pubs was our opportunity to be directors and start the process of creating our video interviews. 

Tuesday, we made a quick class field trip to the Gaylord Cage. To all non-Gaylord students, this might sound a little frightening, like a dungeon or something. It's just the place where we can rent audio and video equipment for production. 

When we arrived, we got a crash course in how to use our tool of choice, the Nikon D7100. This was not foreign territory for me at all, since I use my D3300 almost daily. The D7100 does have more fancy bells and whistles, but the experience varies very little with my camera. In addition to the camera, we also got shotgun mics to record our interviews. 

I checked out the equipment for me and my partner in this assignment. I also checked out a tripod, since we would need to have a good stable surface to steady our camera. 

Armed with memory cards courtesy of our instructor (Thanks, Adam), on Thursday, we started filming. I wanted my interview to come off as conversational as possible, so I chose just a few questions from the StoryCorps list. My partner Sierra Abbott and I decided to use one of the seating areas on the third floor of Gaylord as our setting. After setting up the camera and framing the shot, I interviewed her first. 

My plan of being conversational was sort of a fail. The reason being that I shifted my focus of the interview. I asked many questions, and Sierra answered them so well and was very patient with me. She deserves an A for being so helpful. After getting her interview, I ran back to the computer lab and transferred the video onto a computer to free some space for my interview and B-roll.

I went back and did my interview. Sierra asked some good questions and was very conversational. After filming the entire interview, I realized that I forgot to turn the mic back on. So, we reshot the entire interview. With only about 15 minutes left of class, we began shooting a little bit of B-roll around Gaylord. After that, we went back to the lab and transferred our video once again. 

After class, we shot a little more B-roll. On Monday, I will probably get some more B-roll to be ready for class on Tuesday, where we get to take this project closer to its final form. 

Have a Veep GIF. It comes back April 16 at 10:30. GIF from Tumblr.