Spark PR’s Experience in Service Learning With The ALS Association.

As seniors in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, Spark PR was given a unique service learning opportunity, which provided each member of our team an experience to remember. As a team, we have worked hard to provide The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter with the best campaign possible to strengthen the association between The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter, its programs and services while attracting future supporters to ensure the organization’s continued success.

The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to finding a cure for the ALS disease. This organization provides discounted or free programs and services to those with ALS. In the Louisiana and Mississippi areas, a Respite Care Program is available as well as home visits to assess patient needs. ALS, which is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a terrible and 100 percent fatal disease that not only affect those diagnosed, but also their friends, families and caretakers.

In 2014, The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a worldwide campaign to raise money and awareness for The ALS Association. This viral campaign raised more than $15 million but once the Ice Bucket Challenge ended, many people assumed that enough money had been raised to help those with ALS. The funds raised were a huge step forward for this organization and The ALS Association was able to move one step closer to their goal: “To create a world without ALS”.

Our goal was to help promote the organization’s Red, White and Snow Gala, as well as other events, raise public awareness and assist with fundraising. Spark PR worked hard to increase awareness in Louisiana and Mississippi through social media, print media and television. We created a “Fast Facts” infographic, which provides the public with quick facts about Lou Gehrig’s disease, The ALS Association and how to get involved.IMG_4308

Spark PR assisted The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter in hosting an event at The Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We promoted the Red, White and Sneaux Gala through print, social and digital media. The event featured both live and silent auctions, a sit-down dinner, awards ceremony, live music and much more. The 2016 Red, White and Sneaux Gala raised more than $109,000, which is more than ever before. Spark PR is proud to have been part of such a successful event for a great organization.

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Although it is not over, Spark PR has learned so many new things while working with The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter. This experience was an eye-opener for the members of our team and we have certainly learned the importance of giving back to the community. This class taught us more than how to be successful in public relations; it also taught each one of us that working hard to help others really does make a difference. Spark PR began as a public relations school project but as we wrap up the semester, we realize that this experience will stay with us long after we graduate from LSU.

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To find out more about The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter:

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Lauren Scioneaux, Spark PR Design Director

Sources:

Here’s How the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Started. (August 2014). Retrieved April 27, 2016 from http://time.com/3136507/als-ice-bucket-challenge-started/

Patient & Family Services. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2016 from http://webla.alsa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=LA_8_patient_family_services

Harrington, M. (2014, April 7). 7 top tips for successful infographics. Retrieved April 28, 2016, from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/7_top_tips_for_successful_infographics_16262.aspx

 

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Professionalism and Ethics in Spark PR

What Are Ethics?

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Ethics help individuals to “systemize, defend, and recommend concepts of right and wrong behavior” (Fieser, n.d.). Ethical theories are broken into three main categories:

  1. Metaethics – The study of morality. Looks into the foundation and scope of moral values
  2. Normative ethics – The study of ethical action. It helps to explain questions that arise when considering how one should act morally.
  3. Applied ethics – The philosophical examination of matters of moral judgment. Uses philosophy to choose the morally appropriate actions in daily life.

What about Professionalism?

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The concept of professionalism is closely tied to ethics. According to the website of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, “a profession is distinguished by specific characteristics, including master of a particular intellectual skill through education and training, acceptance of duties to a broader society than merely one’s clients/employers, objectivity and high standards of conduct and performance.” The latter part of that definition makes it clear that ethics is essential to defining a profession.

Though it may seem obvious, any profession requires professionals. Adhering to professional behavior simply means doing what is right and developing professionalism as a personal attribute is a great way to move towards an ethical approach to your public relations practice.

Development of Public Relations Ethics

Have ethics and professionalism always been important to public relations practitioners? No, but it is today. This is an important concept for anyone entering into the field to understand.

Edward Bernays introduced public relations to the world. Early on, public relations practices generated many ethical concerns. During this era, practitioners utilized press agentry to generate publicity at any cost. This approach to public relations resulted in the unethical early reputation of the practice. This reputation still lingers over the field. Today’s society often associates public relations practitioners with spin-doctors.

Modern-day public relations practitioners strive for sound ethical behavior in their professional lives. National associations for public relations practitioners have implemented both ethical and professional standards for all practitioners. These standards have helped to reform the public relations practices of old from immoral to ethically sound.

 Resources: Professionalism & Ethics

Many national associations for public relations practitioners provide their members with a code of ethics. This code is meant to serve as a guideline for these public relations professionals. Practitioners can look to these guidelines when trying to decide how to conduct themselves in their professional lives. The PRSA Code of Ethics is a widely used tool for all PR professionals. Private firms often reference this document when creating their business’ code of ethics. The PRSA Code of Professional Standards is resource that educates professionals on the six professional values of public relations.

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Spark PR aims to adhere to the six enumerated values of the profession. We currently serve as advocate for The ALS Association. As advocates, we are responsible for providing the public with honest and accurate information about the organization. We make ourselves accountable for all of actions during the course of the campaign and aim to serve the public interest. We also act within our area of expertise and defer to organizational executives when appropriate.

The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) provides public relations students with a code of ethics. Students can utilize this code of ethics when they need assistance in choosing the right course of action. Students can also reference the six professional values when trying to identify the important aspects of the profession.

Members of Spark PR strive to adhere to all ethical and professional guidelines while carrying out our campaign. This commitment to ethical practices will compliment The ALS Association’s own high ethical and professional standards. We hope to build trust and have a prosperous and beneficial relationship with the client.

Follow The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter:

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Jessica McAlum, Spark PR research director

Sources:

Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to Best Practices (2004). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from https://books.google.com/booksid=T8hF4mTRClAC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=Global+Alliance+for+Public+Relations+and+Communication+Management,+“a+profession+is+distinguished+by+specific+characteristics,+including+master+of+a+particula&source=bl&ots=yTZsBzun7S&sig=B2T-8iD-NuUGo8yI25FMcHfInOU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjz7LrzpqDMAhXpmIMKHQlYD3sQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=Global%20Alliance%20for%20Public%20Relations%20and%20Communication%20Management%2C%20“a%20profession%20is%20distinguished%20by%20specific%20characteristics%2C%20including%20master%20of%20a%20particula&f=false

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/

Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Member Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from https://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/CodeEnglish/#.VlONDvmrTjZ

Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Statement of Professional Values. (n.d.) Retrieved April, 19 2016, from https://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/ethics/codeenglish/#MemberStatement

Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Member Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://prssa.prsa.org/about/Advocacy/Ethics/

 

Evaluating Public Relations Campaigns With Spark PR

Written By: Allison Ewing, co-strategy director

Everyone wants success, but how do you measure success. A campaign or an event can seem successful on the outside but could be a fundraising bust and vice versa. This is why evaluations are necessary. Evaluating helps when gauging what is working for the campaign versus what should be eliminated from the campaign.

Evaluating is a continual process that starts before the campaign even does, continues on during and afterwards. It is important to create a baseline either by giving a preliminary survey or setting goals.

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Photo Provided by ShutterStock

Forbes lists 4 (mostly) free tools to help analyze data for evaluations:

  1. Google Analytics

Google analytics helps by showing their subscribers: demographics of users, daily visits to the website, how the website users were directed to the website and other valuable pieces of information. Google analytics helps to track the behavior of the user which is valuable in evaluating.

  1. Klout

Klout helps to measure the influence your online data is creating. It gives information on topics such as, how many people your brand is influencing. Klout also offers a social media map to show activity over the past 90 days. This is helpful to see when your audience was most receptive to content that was posted. Klout is helpful to get people to act and to tract these user’s interaction with the client.

  1. Wildfire’s Social Media monitor

WildFire offers a free social media monitoring that helps with comparing the number of likes, check-ins and followers from page to page. This website is helpful when comparing your brand to that of your competitors.

  1. My Top Tweet by TwitSprout

My Top Tweet does exactly what it sounds like it would, it ranks the top 10 most shared tweets. This site also tells the amount of times these top tweets were retweeted.

Forbes also featured Hootsuite as an extra evaluation application in the article. HootSuite is an analytic tool that offers a free dashboard to make managing social media activity easier. On the dashboard you can manage different accounts all in the same place while also receiving analytical information.

Spark PR has been using MailChimp and surveys to effectively evaluate the progress of ALS Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter.

MailChimp helps with tracking performance rates of mass emails sent out. It tells the average open rates, click rates and it monitor trends to see who has revieved the email, who didn’t and why they can also view who has unsubscribed from the service.

Surveys are good to use when first beginning and finishing a campaign. Surveys assess: awareness, attitudes and perception to the campaign. It is important to send a follow up survey to compare the final numbers to the beginning numbers.

Evaluating is important to showing the success or failure in different areas of a campaign. They help with showing the big picture to the client as well as creating better events in the future based off of past data. While Evaluating is not the most fun aspect of a public relations professional it shows how much of an impact we make for companies.

 

As a new public relations firm, Spark PR realizes that we may not have all the answers to our clients problems, but we do have the tools and resources to work as a team and solve these concerns to the best of our ability. For examples of Spark PR’s work, please follow The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississipi Chapter. Be sure and buy your tickets for ALS’s Red White and Sneaux Gala today.

To find out more about The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter:

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Allison Ewing, co-strategy director

sources:

The Muse. August 22, 2012. 4 Ways to Measure Your Social Media Success. Forbes. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2012/08/22/4-ways-to-measure-your-social-media-success/#a76835b310bc.

 

 

 

 

Spark PR Implements PR Strategies with The ALS Association

Written By: Casey Ochoa, co-strategy director

Spark PR is at the point of the campaign where we start to develop our strategies to grow The ALS Association over the next year, and determining which strategies will best help achieve its goal. Spark PR has formed a strategic plan geared toward our three goals for The ALS Association: to increase comprehension of The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter’s programs and services, to increase positive attitudes towards ALS and to increase funds.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

In public relations, the forming of strategies is crucial for the success of any campaign. According to Patrica Lotich, there are five steps in creating an effective PR strategy. These steps are:

  • Discovery – who the organization serves and who in the community interacts with the organization.
  • PR Plan – developing your strategic planning process.
  • PR Policy – the process to communicate with the organization’s key publics.
  • Plan Implementation – implementing the plan by looking at the budget and timetable.
  • Evaluation – evaluate how well the plan is working.

Spark PR has developed all of these steps when creating its strategies. We have discovered that the organization mainly wants to interact with potential donors and sponsors, which lead us to forming our strategic plan. To reach ALS’s key publics, we plan to use print and social media directed at its key publics to promote the organization and it’s fundraising events. Our second strategy to reach its key publics is to create opportunities for the public to be exposed to the ALS Association. Our final strategy is to promote all fundraising events and encourage donations/support using traditional and social media messaging directed toward Baton Rouge businesses and philanthropic individuals.

Now you may be asking yourself how we plan to put these strategies into effect. Spark PR has also developed several tactics to achieve our strategic goals. However, there is a distinct difference between PR strategies and tactics. According to Michael Porter of AdWeek, the main difference between a PR strategy and tactic are that a strategy is a larger overall plan that is comprised of several tactics, which are smaller and focused action items that are part of the overall plan. It is crucial for any PR campaign to understand the difference between the two in order to create effective strategies.

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Image courtesy of AdWeek.com

Each one of Spark PR’s strategies is designed to influence potential donors and sponsors and effectively achieve The ALS Association’s goal of increasing funds and awareness. Our strategies are the reason behind each one of our tactics that will be taken into effect throughout our entire campaign.

Now that Spark PR has developed our PR strategy for The ALS Association, our team can now further develop the communication plans through the use of specific tactics and channels to distribute messages to its key audiences.

Follow The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter:

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Casey Ochoa, co-strategy director

Sources:

Loth, P. (2014). Public Relations Strategy: Why Your Organization Needs One — The Thriving Small Business. Retrieved March 29, 2016, from http://thethrivingsmallbusiness.com/public-relations-strategy-why-your-organization-needs-one/

Aileron. (2011, October 25). Five Steps to Strategic Plan. Retrieved March 29, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/aileron/2011/10/25/five-steps-to-a-strategic-plan/#6248f9a961af

Wood, S. P. (2014, September 17). What’s the Difference Between ‘Strategy’ and ‘Tactic?’. Retrieved March 29, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/prnewser/whats-the-difference-between-strategy-and-tactic/100447

Developing a communications strategy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2016, from https://knowhownonprofit.org/campaigns/communications/effective-communications-1/communications-strategy

Spark PR on Public Relations Research

Written By: Jessica McAlum, research director

The value and practical application of public relations research may not be obvious, but the foundation of any PR campaign is based on research.  Research should serve as the basis for all strategic decisions within the campaign.  The graphic below from “Effective Public Relations” textbook explains that research is the first step in the four-step process to any effective PR campaign.

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Image courtesy of Effective Public Relations

The research portion of a campaign is critical to its overall success. Unveiling the practical applications of PR research should help to explain why it is so crucial.  Research allows PR firms to identify key information needed for strategic campaign planning. Research can help to:

  • Create a problem statement to ascertain what problem the PR practitioner is there to fix.
  • Identify target markets  – including detailed demographic and psychographic information on those markets.
  • Identify effective media channels to reach respective markets.
  • Identify current behaviors, attitudes and knowledge of key publics.
  • Justify a firm’s decisions to a client.
  • Develop strategic public relations activities.
  • Show results and measure impact of PR activities.
  • Allow for two-way communication with the public.

Research can be primary (conducted by researcher) or secondary (conducted by a third party). Spark PR chose to utilize both primary and secondary research methods in our campaign with The ALS Association. We used secondary research on ALS disease to identify demographic information on patients, costs associated with the disease and information on the organization. We then utilized a primary research method and distributed a survey to the public.

Data derived from research can be qualitative or quantitative .  The type of data derived from research is contingent on the chosen research method. Qualitative research methods include in-depth interviews, focus groups, case studies and participant observation. Quantitative research methods include Internet, telephone and mail surveys, comment cards and feedback forms. The characteristics of each type of data are explained in the diagram below.

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Image courtesy of Oswego City School District Regents Exam Prep Center

We  distributed a survey using Qualtrics as our research instrument to gather quantitative data from The ALS Association’s publics.  We asked respondents about their attitudes, knowledge and behavior regarding our client. After analyzing our survey results, we were able to identify the target demographic for our campaign. We were also able to identify the most effective strategic communication channels to reach our target audience. If our client wants justification behind these choices, we can refer them to our research results.

The value and practical application of research on the public relations profession is profound. It is our hope that this blog has explained the basic benefits of research and why it is needed to plan a successful public relations campaign. More information on public relations research and its applications can be found here.

 

Follow The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter:

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Jessica McAlum, Spark PR research director

SOURCES:

Bowen, S.A., Rawlins, B. J., Martin, T. J. (2016). Mastering Public Relations (1st ed.).   Retrieved March 12, 2016, from http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/public-relations/s09-public-relations-research-the-.html

Broom, G. M., Cutlip, S. M., & Center, A. H. (2006). Effective Public Relations (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2016, from http://regentsprep.org/regents/math/algebra/ad1/qualquant.htm

 

 

 

Spark PR on Stewardship and Client Relationships

Stewardship is defined as “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something.” As a PR agency, Spark PR is responsible for creating a public relations campaign for the ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter. Our agency has a duty to protect the organization’s image, however, without first establishing a relationship with the client, ALS is not likely to trust us with its image.

In the short amount of time Spark PR has worked with ALS, our agency has already developed a strong relationship with the organization. We make sure to maintain this relationship through weekly meetings, phone calls and text messages. Even if our agency does not have any specific questions or materials to walk through with our client, Spark PR always makes a point to check in via email or phone call. The course syllabus explains that after completion of this course, students will be able to “establish and maintain positive client relationships and work as a part of a public relations team.” Though the course is not yet complete, Spark PR is already more confident in our relationship building abilities.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

In an article from PRDaily, Nicole Messier describes five tips for enhancing client relationships.

  1. Weekly meetings, whether in person or over the phone, should be more than just a rattling off of the to-do list. Spark PR meets with ALS either in person or over the phone at least once a week. Our agency makes sure to maintain a two-way conversation, in which we ask for feedback and suggestions rather than simply “rattling off of the to-do list.”
  2. Schedule proactive brainstorming sessions with the client. Even if Spark PR doesn’t have a specific topic to discuss with ALS, we still meet weekly to share thoughts and discuss ideas.
  3. Strike a balance of getting to know the client personally and professionally. Rather than jumping right into business, Spark PR always takes the time to engage in small talk with our client for the few first few minutes of each meeting. Whether it’s “how was your conference?” or “are you having a good week?,” we do our best to get to know our client on a personal level.
  4. Don’t let weekly meetings become your only touch point with the client. Though we do meet with ALS in person or over the phone weekly, Spark PR is in constant contact with our client. We email or text our contacts at ALS daily.
  5. Remember to do “PR” for yourself. Spark PR wants to make sure our client trusts the work we are doing. Therefore, we keep ALS informed of the progress we have made and the success we have achieved. Whether it’s a good grade on an assignment or an engaging social media post, Spark PR always maintains two-way communication on chief milestones.

As future public relations professionals, the ability to establish and maintain client relationships is one of the most important skills we will learn. Our work with ALS thus far has given us valuable experience, and we hope to establish a lasting relationship.

Follow ALS Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter:

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Anne Claire Aaron, account executive

Sources:

Messier, N. (n.d.). 5 tips for enhancing client relations. Retrieved March 02, 2016, from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/5_tips_for_enhancing_client_relations__12299.aspx

Spark PR Demonstrates Expertise in Our Field Through its Work With ALS

Written By: Anne Claire Aaron, account executive

As Manship students and soon-to-be public relations professionals, it is safe to say that we have become pretty familiar with PRSA members’ core values. According to the PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values, expertise is one of the six core values that should guide our behaviors as public relations professionals. Expertise refers to acquiring and responsibly using specialized knowledge and experience. Through continued professional development, research and education, we advance the profession. As public relations experts, we also build mutual understanding, credibility and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.

After completing the course learning outcomes listed in the MC 4005 syllabus, we should be able to establish and maintain positive client relationships and outcomes as part of a public relations team. This is just part of what it means to exhibit expertise in the public relations field. Though it is only the fifth week of the semester, we have already worked as a team to establish a relationship with our client, The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter, and we will continue to work to maintain this relationship.

The syllabus discusses four ways PR professionals demonstrate expertise: writing, thinking, research and deadline orientation/organization. Over the past five weeks, our team has demonstrated each of these, but recently we have specifically focused on research. Through our research, we want to find answers to the problems ALS is facing in order to serve our clients needs.

An article from Entrepreneur.com provides tips on demonstrating expertise in the public relations field. The first tip is, “understand the potential of public relations to manage perceptions.” In order to effectively serve the ALS Association’s needs, it is essential that we understand the public’s perception of the organization and work to ensure this is how the organization wants to be perceived.

The next piece of advice we are taking from Entrepreneur.com is, “be prepared for a crisis.” After meeting with our client, we realized that they do not have a crisis communication plan for their Annual Gala. Because ALS patients will be attending the event, it is crucial that our client knows how to properly handle any situations involving these patients illnesses.

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Image courtesy of MSLGROUP Global

As a new public relations firm, Spark PR realizes that we may not have all the answers to our client’s problems, but we do have the tools and resources to work as a team and solve these problems to the best of our ability.

To find out more about the ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter:

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Anne Claire Aaron, account executive

Sources:

Crafting Your Story: Public Relations Expertise For Your Business. (2015). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244219

Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Member Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from https://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/ethics/codeenglish/#.VrvQcjaodFI