Thursday, March 30, 2017

Reflection, Unit 3.5

Photo from Pexels
Feature writing was the focus for this unit of public relations writing. In the last unit, we honed our arguing capabilities in creating a position paper. This unit, we delved into the fun that is writing features. 

Writing features and writing creative ledes has always been one of my favorite parts of news writing. I have always enjoyed telling the specific stories of people, places or things in a way that moves the reader and takes them there. 

For this assignment, I decided to write a feature over an interesting campus personality. For me, that person is my Choctaw College and Career Resources Adviser, Hannah Blackwell. Hannah is a doctoral student in addition to being this full-time representative of the Choctaw Nation. She always has a million things to do, yet she does an amazing job of helping Choctaw student succeed. She and I have so much in common, like being from a rural part of the Choctaw Nation. I think she is one of the most interesting people on campus, and she plays such a vital role for Choctaw students. 

To begin, I decided who to interview. I know I wanted to interview Hannah for sure. I then decided I wanted someone who works with Hannah and a student whose life Hannah has influenced through her work. I chose the OU Tribal Liaison Warren Queton and criminology student Samantha Manuel. I then began scheduling the interviews.

Because of scheduling and conflicts, I interviewed Warren Queton first. I drafted my questions and made an appointment to interview him. I recorded the interview and got some very good information and quotes. 

I repeated the process for Hannah and Samantha Manuel. With all this information, I began the process of writing the feature. I began the feature by talking about Hannah's office in Copeland Hall. I transitioned into referring to it as a command center with Hannah at the helm. From there, I began to discuss what makes Hannah so interesting. 

Writing features will definitely be a high point for me as a part of my future career as a public relations practitioner. I feel that I am better at writing poignant, fun pieces about people, places and things. It's not as restrictive as standard journalistic writing. In my opinion, it allows one to really explore the subject matter. 

As public relations practitioners, we will have to write plenty of features, especially over products. It is very handy to know the different strategies to approach features so we can make them creative and fun. 

I would like to know more about how I can smoothly integrate more description into my writing. I feel that it's descriptive as it is, but I think I could get more from it. 

Being able to write features will help our publics get to know people within our organizations, the places associated with them and the products and services they can deliver. It is important that we capture this skill and make good use of it. If not, our publics may never get to know the more personal, human side of our organizations. 

Adobe Premiere: A Story of Love and Hate

Photo from Pexels
Last week was a quick and smooth week in public relations publications. We worked on social media assets using Canva as our platform of design. This week we began working with Adobe Premiere. Out of all the Adobe programs I can operate thus far in my career, I would have to say that Premiere is my least favorite. That's an understatement. I hate it. But I love it for the cool things it can do. 

GIF from Tumblr.
Video has been a medium that has taken up residence on the back burner of my mind since I have begun college. I have always wanted to take a course specifically dedicated to video and video editing. When I was at Eastern Oklahoma State College working on my associate degree, I had the option of taking video production courses. However, these classes were never offered at times that worked in my schedule. My advisor, who focused in broadcast journalism during her undergrad at OSU, taught the class and knew Premiere very well. I was very sad that I never had the opportunity to take her classes. Regardless, the need to work with video did arise. 

During my final semester at Eastern, I was heavily involved with the Choctaws of EOSC program. Our program adviser knew that I was preparing to transfer to OU and major in public relations so she gave me every possible opportunity to hone my skills for the benefit of the program. She approached me about mid-semester and asked me if I would make a video for our banquet, where the program director of the Choctaw Nation College and Career Resources program would see and, potentially, chief of the Choctaw Nation, Gary Batton. Talk about pressure. Knowing that I had little background in video editing/production, I enlisted one of my friends who focused on it to help me. The video was to feature interviews done with program participants. 

As it turns out, he was busy with other school projects. I shot all the interviews and pieced
Good thing Chief didn't get to see my disarray. GIF from Tumblr
together the video all by myself, with the occasional help from my adviser or my friend. In the end, and I mean literally up to the five minutes before we were to show it at the banquet, I was working on it. I failed to export the video properly so I had to scramble to get the ten-minute video exported, which took like 45 minutes. The video was good for my skill level. I knew it could be better. Luckily, Chief Batton was at the banquet that evening. 

I love Premiere because of the cool things you can do with it, like editing sound and creating animations without having to move into Adobe After Effects. Feature-length films like "The Social Network" were edited using Premiere. It is a dynamic tool that allows the user to create moving masterpieces, whether they be docs, how-to-videos or simple short films. 

Me using Premiere. GIF from Tumblr.
It's a dynamic tool with many uses. Now comes the part where I talk about my deep hatred for it. Premiere is not very user-friendly. I say that because I am spoiled to Illustrator and InDesign, that are concerned with 2D, stationary content creation. Premiere can do so much so the interface must be complex in order to do what it is designed to do. People who just want to fly in and edit video, like me, have to take the time to learn the basics before making "Titanic." One little misclick and not making note of it can completely ruin your workflow and, potentially, your project. It's frustrating. 

Now that I got on my soapbox for a hot minute, I can talk about the amazing tutorials we followed in class and outside of class. 

The tutorials we looked at were incredibly helpful. Especially for someone like me, who hasn't used Premiere in a while, and a new version at that. I got a good refresher on how to cut and edit video and sound, how to employ B-roll, how to create titles, etc. I had previously learned all this when working on my Choctaw video. However, I haven't used that knowledge in a year and not on 2017. I knew how to use it in Premiere CS5. It's a complicated process, but when you figure it out, your end product is amazing. You created a film. You. Even if the video is unadulterated garbage, I find it extremely satisfying to see my work. 
GIF from Tumblr

Now that I recovered the basics of Premiere, I am excited to use it to create our video assignment coming up in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, this was enough so that I wouldn't get neck deep in a project and find out that I completely ruined it through personal stupidity. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Canva: A Dynamic Tool for Social Media and Beyond

Photo from Pexels
After completing the direct mailers with Photoshop the week before spring break, we switched gears and worked with Canva this week in public relations publications. 

For anyone who doesn't know what it is, Canva is this amazing online graphic design software that comes with free templates and sources. All that you have to do is create a Canva username, and it takes literally seconds. Canva has a design school, which teaches anyone the basic principles of graphic design. I highly recommend anyone in strategic communications, marketing, entrepreneurship, etc., to create an account with Canva because it is good for several reasons.

First, as I mentioned, the design school. The design school tutorials are a good way to jump into graphic design. When I first started in design, my designs were flat-out atrocious. I really wish I had known about Canva and its design school for that reason. 

Next, Canva is simple to use. You can pick from a multitude of professional-looking templates to begin an aesthetically design. Instead of having to learn commands and the general set up of Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator, Canva lumps all that into its design interface, by categorizing templates by use, such as social media, print, etc. The tools on Canva are a breeze to learn as well. 

Thirdly, it's free. Instead of paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for the Adobe Creative Cloud, you can do so much of what you can do on the Creative Cloud for free on Canva. This yields a high ROI, especially if you are a freelance designer, marketer, etc. 

Canva is amazing. However, it does have its shortcomings. 

What you see is what you get. On Canva, it is impossible to do small tweaks to designs, such as changing the weight of a line. This task can be accomplished easily in all the Adobe programs. 

Facebook Profile Picture
Unlike doing a traditional design on InDesign, you cannot add fonts to your library on Canva, which is limiting, especially if you are working with a brand, like I was in this assignment. I designed my social media pieces for an artist I know who I'm in the process of branding. In many of the materials I have designed for him, I utilized Bebas Neue and Palatino as my font choices. Canva has Bebas Neue, but it does not have Palatino. 

The bottomline is Canva is good for designing pieces that will be used or seen for a short period of time. It's great for social media and fliers. I would not design an annual report or something more longterm in Canva. These types of pieces would present many types of challenges that may not be easily solved in Canva. 
Facebook Cover Photo

For my project, I created social media pieces for an artist/family friend. 

Instagram Post
Last summer, before I began my career a the University of Oklahoma, I knew I needed experience in public relations. His art career was taking off, and I figured he could benefit from my expertise (what little I had). I wrote news releases and started a Facebook page for him. Because I did not know much about public relations at that point, I became disenchanted. He kept getting into shows and exhibitions, but because of his work and acclaim. 

Now, since I have more experience due to my PR courses, I have begun helping him more in his communications efforts. I wanted to help him even further with this assignment. 

To do so, I designed three social media pieces: a profile picture to replace the general picture of one of his paintings, a cover picture to replace the atrocity of the one I designed and an Instagram picture for an upcoming show. Canva was very helpful in creating these pieces.

With his brand in mind, I created the three pieces. I incorporated elements from his paintings and elements that reflected his brand and upcoming events. Overall, I am very satisfied with them. I think he will be as well. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Reflection, Unit 3.4

Spring is in the air! Photo from Pexels
We moved into position this week in public relations writing. Position papers, that is. Last week, we covered backgrounders and fact sheets, which was very helpful in developing the position paper. 

The backgrounder really help us with this assignment because we had to do in-depth research for the backgrounder. The position paper required the same level of in-depth research. 

The video we watched over developing a position paper was useful. It gave us an idea of what to include in our papers. The format is simple. An introduction summarizes the piece. Next, you move into counterarguments and debunk them. After that, you offer three points to argue with solid supporting evidence. Finally, you tie everything up with a conclusion that offers solutions to problems. 

Our assignment required us to write a position paper on why the Tipton Children's Home was a viable option to Oklahoma DHS foster care. I started by plunging into research to find out more on the topic and what could be argued for this position. 

After finding credible websites and articles, I discovered my three main points to argue: teaching children self-sustainability, creating community and offering emotional support services. I gave detailed arguments for each point and found some strong support for my points through research. 

I found this assignment easy after the backgrounder. The more time you spend researching it, the better. 

Writing position papers comes as the advocacy part of being a public relations professional. We will be writing advocational materials constantly and should know how to do our homework. We need to know exactly what constitutes as a strong argument how to give strength to our arguments. 

In my dream career in tribal communications, there are plenty of issues facing Native American tribes that would require writing a position paper. One such event that comes to mind is the Dakota Access Pipeline crisis. Many tribes and nations came out in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its efforts. I could imagine that writing position papers would come in handy in this situation. This way, tribes could express to local populations their concerns about this issue and how it affects them. 

I am very happy that spring break is next week. I am ready for some time off. I will be heading to Mena, Arkansas, via Talimena Drive. It's nothing much, but I am excited nonetheless. 

Finishing the Direct Mailer

Photo from Pexels
Midterms week has been absolutely insane. With so much going on, it was nice to have a creative escape and finish the direct mailer from last week

The direct mailer has been a challenging project through and through. Like I stated in my previous blog post, I had strong feelings about this project. It gave me some real insight into what I want to do in my future career. Agency work probably wouldn't be a good fit for me because I want to communicate for something in which I am invested. For the record, I believe in the University's mission and always want to help in someway to further its mission. Now, I digress. 

I spent the class on Tuesday working on what I had created last week. Each of my direct mailers had one of the two residential colleges on it. One was to be marketed to the legacy Sooner parents and one to the legacy freshman wanting a community on campus. 

The Legacy Parent direct mailer

I started with an image of the exteriors of each respected residential college on each mailer. I changed their opacities and then placed interior shots on the fronts. I then placed my respected messages on each one. I was unsure of this so I got rid of the background images and just incorporated as a standard image with the interior shots. The direct mailers were starting to get where I wanted them. I asked my instructor for his thoughts and he told me to change some positioning, which helped their look immensely. I also changed my messages from "Living the Sooner spirit" to "Starting a new Sooner tradition" for the legacy parent direct mailer and "Community" to "Creating a Sooner Community" for the student direct mailer. 

I worked on the back side outside of class. On the back, I placed the crest of each respected residential college. I lowered their opacities to about five percent. On top, I placed the address of OU Residential Colleges and my call to action, with icons, below, starting with following on Facebook and Twitter and then moving to going to the website for a virtual tour and actually applying. I played around with the fonts until I found a good combination. Gill Sans, I decided, complemented Baskerville, the font used by OU Residential Colleges in its logo. I looked at the Residential College website and wrote a short bit of copy describing the residential colleges' function, each copy geared to its respected public. The back of my direct mailer was close to where I wanted it to be.

On Thursday, I came to class with a nearly completed project to get some critiques. My instructor advised me to change the order of my calls to action and to fine tune my copy. Once that was completed, I was finished with this project. 

With this project under my belt, I feel like I really expanded my knowledge of Photoshop and applied the principles of design. Designing direct mailers in the future won't be an issue at all.
The Student direct mailer

I am so happy this week is over. Spring break is next week. I will be going Mena, Arkansas, via Talimena Drive from Talihina. It's not much, but I'm excited nonetheless.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Reflection, Unit 3.3

Photo from Pexels.
This week in public relations writing, we learned about fact sheets and backgrounders. This comes after we looked at media pitches and media advisories last week. 

We are learning about all the different tools we will be expected to use in our future careers. In my opinion, the fact sheet was one of the easiest assignments we've had so far because all you have to do for those is list facts. Using a two-column format, you put headers in the left column and the facts on the right. each fact should be between two and three sentences in length, sticking with the one idea per heading. 

The backgrounder was the more difficult piece of writing because of the research involved. Backgrounders are great because you can pack it full of useful information about your organization or a specific topic or issue. When writing my backgrounder, I made a special effort to cite everything so that it would be credible to whoever reads it and so that readers can go and find those things out for themselves. 

These assignments were great because I felt like I really got inside the head of a public relations professional. Now, I have a better understanding of what to include in a fact sheet and a backgrounder.

As public relations professionals, we will be expected to put together media kits. You can't have a good, overarching media kit without at least one of these tools. Backgrounders and fact sheets make journalists' lives easier, which helps our relationship with them. 

In the future, using these two tools will be imperative. They help to bolster news releases and they make our work more credible and whole. Now, we have another way of creating a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship with our publics. 

Direct Mailer and Market Research

Photo from Pexels.
This week in public relations publications, we picked up where we left off last week. We learned some good tricks on Photoshop and got some great insight into the process of designing direct mailers. We took that a step further with market research. 

During Tuesday's class, we heard from a fellow of OU's future residential colleges. He talked to us about President David Boren's vision and how OU plans to achieve that vision with the construction of these colleges, which are meant to be an on-campus, interactive living community for sophomores and upperclassmen. Our guest speaker answered any questions we had about who they wanted to see in Dunham and Headington Colleges

The next assignment was actual boots-on-the-ground market research. Each person in the class chose an off-campus apartment complex designed for OU students to investigate. Our mission was to see how each place was marketed, how they structured their messaging and how we can use similar strategies to communicate with our target audiences. I chose University Greens, not only because for this assignment but also because I am searching for a new place to live for next school year. I have heard and seen good things about University Greens, so I wanted to check them out. 

U Greens Booklet. Photo by Wyatt Stanford.
I arrived at U Greens Tuesday afternoon for a tour and hopefully some marketing materials. A person working the front desk greeted me. I introduced myself and asked for a tour, to which he happily agreed. He handed me a small booklet which emphasized U Greens' modernity, proximity to campus, amenities and their three-bed-three-bath floorplan, which sets them apart from many apartment complexes in Norman that have four-bed-four-bath arrangements. 

On the tour, I saw the offerings in the clubhouse, such as the coffee bar, the computer lab and study rooms. I next got to see the pool. Finally, the U Greens representative took me to the model. The model was the standard 3x3 setup. 

The messaging I saw and heard focused intensely on modernity and great amenities at an affordable price. The representative giving me the tour moved from the complex at which I live currently. He told me that U Greens may be a little more expensive, but the experience, for him at least, has been better. On an interesting note, the representative attended a junior college and transferred to OU, just like me. I was talking to a member of the target audience to which I belong. 

We returned to the clubhouse. I tried to get my hands on other branding materials, but the only other thing I could get was a refrigerator magnet. 

I started to get an idea of how I wanted to communicate and to whom I want to communicate. It was an arduous process for me because I have very strong feelings about the residential colleges. I'm always about the university's mission, but the residential colleges are not my cup of tea. This experience has taught me a lot about the kind of work environment I will prefer in my future career. Agency life is definitely not for me. I want to communicate for something in which I believe, whether it be through the organization's products or services. But this is a different soap opera. 

Personas. Table by Wyatt Stanford.
On Thursday, I got to work thinking about my target audiences for the two direct mailers. I thought good and hard about who would be most likely to want to reserve a spot in the residential colleges. I came up with freshmen who want involvement and don't want to leave the towers and the parents of those freshmen who want the university experience for their children. I constructed personas based on my findings and inferences. The student persona is "Boomer Billy." His parents are the "Sooner Smiths." 

From my personas, I will begin constructing my direct mailers. I will be brainstorming on how to represent these messages and how my target audience will perceive them.