I Left My Heart in San Francisco (And Can’t Come up with Clever Post Titles)

Winter term at the University of Oregon can be dreary: cold, cloudy, probably raining, summer still months away.

The pain of late February was eased, however, with a quick trip to San Francisco with my Allen Hall Public Relations pals to tour a few agencies in the area: The OutCast Agency, Fleishman-Hillard‘s SF office and SHIFT Communications. From exploring the neighborhoods of San Francisco to soaking in wisdom from PR pros, it was a BLAST. Yeah, capital letters.

We drove down on Thursday and devoted Friday to visiting agencies. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed coffee in Union Square before beginning our tour.

Our view of Union Square on Friday morning.

OutCast seemed to embody the hip Bay Area tech PR agency vibe. Their offices are housed in a brick building near AT&T Park and chalkboards with inspiring quotes line the walls. Employees from various levels of the agency hierarchy – including one UO grad and former AHPR member – spoke to us about OutCast’s clients, strategic approach and internship program.

An element of OutCast’s structure that intrigued me was their recently developed media strategy team. While everyone is involved in media strategy to a degree, they have a team dedicated to developing relationships with reporters and consulting individual client teams on media-related projects. One of my favorite parts of my internship at Sports Illustrated this summer was sitting in on meetings in which the communications team brainstormed unique approaches to media relations – how many angles can we find in this story, and what reporters might cover it? To whom can we give an exclusive? How can we play up the most exciting part of this story? It sounds like OutCast’s media strategy team tackles those questions, and I loved learning more about it.

Since OutCast is so close, it would’ve been a crime not to stop at AT&T Park. A few AHPRers on the tour are Bay Area natives and huge Giants fans (their excitement for Buster Posey’s return was palpable), so all the baseball fans made a pilgrimage to the ballpark.

Lunch with the Say Hey Kid.

Our next stop was Fleishman-Hillard, which gave us perspective on the larger agency culture. They walked us through a few case studies of recent work, including a campaign with Callaway Golf. An advertising agency developed a new ad campaign to promote the brand’s new product line, and Fleishman was tasked with drumming up publicity for the campaign itself (not just pitching the products featured in the ads). The campaign featured famous golfers like Phil Mickelson, and took them off the golf course and into Las Vegas, where they made shots from the tops of buildings and into fountains. Hearing how they targeted various media outlets and capitalized on unique opportunities (like having Phil sing the SportsCenter intro music) inspired me to think creatively about media opportunities for campaigns I might work on in the future.

We met with Fleishman-Hillard on the 20th floor of their building, and were treated to this gorgeous view.

Finally, we visited SHIFT Communications, which was especially terrific because we were able to re-connect with the great Karly Bolton (I’m following her footsteps as AHPR’s Firm Director), who now works in their SF office. After a panel discussion about SHIFT’s work, approach to PR and advice for the job search, they hosted a happy hour for us; I know we all loved chatting with the office about PR, statement necklaces, the New York Giants and everything in between.

Warm welcome at the SHIFT-hosted happy hour.

Karly guided us through San Francisco’s coolest neighborhoods that night, and we packed up for Eugene in the morning. There’s something tragic about looking at the San Francisco skyline in your rear-view mirror, knowing all that lies ahead is 500 miles of freeway and a lot of homework. (Okay, that sounded a little more dramatic than I meant it to.) But you get the idea – there are few things more fun and inspiring than a weekend in a big city, surrounded by awesome people. Can’t wait to go back.

(P.S. – AHPR’s Business Development Director, Rachel Koppes, did an AMAZING job planning everything, from reserving the hotel to carrying a clipboard with directions from agency to agency. She deserves a standing ovation.)

Pondering Life’s Big Questions. Or, My Last Night in NYC.

An email with this subject line just popped into my inbox: “Check in for your flight to Portland.”

That means my return flight from NYC to PDX is less than 24 hours away.

What?

When I booked the flight back in April, just leaving for New York in June seemed lightyears away. And now it’s August? What the heck?

Editor’s Note: I really don’t analyze my emotions as much as the next few paragraphs might suggest. Bear with me for one post that’s more on the “reflective” side.

But my final day in the city has arrived. And I’m not sure how to feel about it. Last year, I was legitimately homesick and ready to be back in Oregon. This year, it’s different; I’m excited because I’ll be reunited with family and friends (and Oregon football), but I’m also bummed because I’m worried that a lot of the growth I experienced this summer – personally and professionally – might be stunted once I’m back in my true comfort zone.

It’s not as though I can’t grow during the school year. I’ll be involved in a lot of different internships and activities that will undoubtedly challenge me, and I truly can’t wait for it all to begin. As much as I loved the city this summer, there were times I wished I was at home, where the pressure to be doing something all the time is lifted. But when you’re in New York for an extended period of time, you can’t imagine being anywhere else. What’s the point of living in another city when everything happens here?

Sure, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’ve pondered the question. I think part of my nervousness stems from knowing that I only have one more year of school (and fun and wearing sweats all day and being home, if I do relocate after graduation) left before I’m tossed into the real world, and I’m scared that I won’t make the most of it.

But amidst all these larger-than-life questions, there’s real work to be done. When I get home, it’ll be time to roll up my sleeves and start preparing for the year at Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency at the University of Oregon, where I’ll be Firm Director. I’ve also started working with Baseball Prospectus as one of their social media interns, and my mom has informed me that I must deep-clean my room and my car before I head back to Eugene. It might not be New York, but all of the aforementioned tasks (except maybe cleaning the car) make for an exciting agenda upon my return.

Guess it’s time to print my boarding pass.

Where Are All the Grammar Nerds?

Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of an English teacher, but I’ve always been a bit of a grammar snob. I’m not above correcting people (“No, Dad. Your meeting went ‘well,’ not ‘good.’”) and I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes judge people if they don’t use the correct form of your/you’re.

I’m certainly not above typos (at my internship this summer, I sent a thank-you email to someone pretty high up in the company who had taken me out for “coffe”), but like most people, I try to write well.

This year, I get to put my grammar obsession to good use as the Editorial Services Director at Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR), my school’s student-run public relations firm.

Basically, this means I’ll be editing and reviewing most of the agency’s work for grammar and style.

Since this is a relatively new position at our agency, I want to have a little fun with it and position my role to be a writing and grammar resource, not simply “that person who edits all our stuff.”

Right now, I’m thinking about starting a blog – maybe something more informal, like a Posterous blog or a Tumblr – that could be updated periodically with interesting articles about grammar and style, particularly how they relate to PR. Or, the site might be less of a blog and more of a resource library, as I kind of doubt people will be super eager to subscribe to/comment on a grammar blog (“Great post! I love apostrophes, too!”).

Do you read any great, grammar- or style-focused blogs? Let me know! I’m looking to expand my reading list so a) I can learn more and b) I can share some great resources with my fellow AHPRers.

Also, if you know of any single blog posts that offer some grammar insight or talk about PR writing (like this post from Peppercom’s RepMan blog), I’d really appreciate the link. This goes for grammar-related Twitter accounts, too.

Once the blog/site gets off the ground, I’ll share the link – thanks for your help!

The Social Media Flip Side

If there is one thing I’ve learned as a public relations student, it is that social media is a very valuable tool for public relations practitioners and their clients. People gain followings, get noticed and can even launch their careers through sites like Twitter. But there is a flip side.

I used to think of PR in terms of how many Twitter followers I had, how many people viewed my blog, how many cool PR people I could find on Twitter…you get the idea.

Now I understand that there is another necessary, if slightly less glamorous side to it all. PR veterans probably already understand that, but I would not have learned that lesson had it not been for Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency at the University of Oregon journalism school.

Named for the building that houses the journalism school, Allen Hall PR provides us with real-world experience: clients, team members, meetings, plans, research and business casual. The experience is invaluable, exciting and fun.

I’m an Account Executive on a four-woman team that does PR for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA), the art museum located on the UO campus.  It’s always bringing in new exhibits and showcasing different art forms, artists and cultures.

Being a social media lover, I couldn’t wait to help run the museum’s Facebook page and send out tweets about new exhibits.

Not so fast, my friend!

Our work has instead been very research-heavy. We’ve spent lots of time compiling media lists and “affinity lists,” compilations of info for on-campus and community groups that might be interested in each upcoming exhibit. Now, we are preparing to conduct observational assessments of museum visitors: Tracking their visit, what pieces they admire and what they pass over, asking them questions about their experience at the museum. Glamorous? Not exactly. Necessary? Absolutely.

Working at Allen Hall PR has allowed me to understand that there is so much more to PR than Twitter and Facebook. It’s also about researching, understanding your client and its audiences and gathering feedback. One day, you can tweet about all the cool stuff you’re doing, but first, you have to know what people actually care.