Public Relations vs. Journalism: How they are more alike than you may think

by Heather Bryan at See.Spark.Go

Both professions tend to get a bad rep from the other. From the PR perspective, journalists can be unapproachable and have investigative intentions for story pitches. Journalists on the other hand often view PR professionals as biased by only generating/reporting the good news and keeping the bad from the general public.

But at the end of the day, both professionals actually have a common denominator that makes them much more similar than they may realize.

That common thread binding both media professionals is the passion for storytelling. Think about it—journalists work tirelessly talking to sources in order to inform people about stories they need to know. PR professionals advocate for their clients with amazing stories that are simply not equipped to tell their own. Both a journalist and a public relations specialist at some point will have the thought, ‘Hey, here is something that is interesting/important/good to know that I think other people would be interested in reading.’ We all want to get information out to others so they can be well-informed. And well, if there is no passion, then neither job will be done well or worth it.

There is the continuous argument that journalism is nothing like PR in the sense that journalists are not paid by their subjects or sources and are trained to be entirely unbiased. However, as sponsored content is increasingly more popular, is that argument really as valid? How is helping clients tell the best possible version of their stories any different than writing or hosting an article solely generated to promote a product? It’s an advertisement disguised as original content hiding in plain site.

So not only do both fields have similar passions and end goals, there are also shared key elements that are vital to either job producing quality work. Here are a few skills a journalist or public relations specialist will need to succeed:

1. Good writing

Cannot stress this one enough. If there is one skill you cannot live without in either field it is writing well. When news articles are riddled with mistakes, readers will stop trusting that outlet, and it won’t be taken seriously. PR specialists must be able to write press releases, story pitches and social posts. If a PR professional’s press release was full of grammar mistakes, odds are a journalist won't even look at it.

2. Transparency

In the media, the public’s trust is of utmost importance. Without an audience, what’s the point? If a journalist seems shady or doesn’t immediately rectify mistakes, people will find alternate news sources. If a people do not trust a company or a product, then sales and exposure will plummet. Well, the good exposure will plummet. This is why when a media professional makes a mistake, it is best to address it calmly, quickly and with a well thought-out plan.

3. Research

The third skill both professions require is the ability to do quality, thorough research. Journalists research constantly, whether it be a topic on which they are reporting or background information when preparing for an interview. PR specialists research everything from clients’ fields and competitors to media outlets that could offer potential coverage.

If journalists and PR specialists never try their hands at the other profession, they’ll probably never see just how similar they are and how many of the same skills are required. When it comes down to it, we’re all just trying to get people to care about stories that matter … and we care about that deeply here at See.Spark.Go!

Heather is a current See.Spark.Go intern this fall. She previously served as the editor-in-chief at The Red & Black, an independent student newspaper for the University of Georgia community.

Tailgate with Airstream's Endless Caravan Family (and Us!)

Without a doubt, traveling is one of our favorite ways to experience life. It allows us to be with the ones we love, embrace new adventures, find freedom and wander into places or experiences that we have always longed to go.

However, to go where we need to go, we need to make choices. Do we choose to go right or left, north or south? Sometimes the question can evolve into something a bit more complex like, “Is it possible to change the world, fall in love and raise a family?” Ultimately, do we choose Love or Work?

That is the question that Jeff and Andre Shinabarger of Plywood People are seeking to answer.

So we sent them on Airstream’s Endless Caravan to meet people who have insight in the area. Both Jeff and Andre are go-getters with a heart to make this world a better place while raising two beautiful children.

As they travel across the Southeast in an Airstream for six weeks, they are interviewing couples who are also going after their dreams, raising families and figuring out how to stay in love. The feedback has been nothing short of eye-opening. They are gleaning tips and reminders to keep check on what is important and making margin for who is important. Follow @loveorwork on Instagram to learn along with them.

Shinabarger Endless Caravan

Follow their journey on THE AIRSTREAM Endless Caravan as they seek the answer to “Love or Work?” by following Airstream on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

On Saturday, Sept. 16 — YES TOMORROW! — the Shinabargers will take a break from interviews to tailgate out of their Airstream with friends and family at See.Spark.Go in Athens, Ga.! Follow See.Spark.Go’s Instagram Stories to catch a glimpse, and stop by if you’re in God’s Country cheering on the Dawgs!

AIRSTREAM ENDLESS CARAVAN TAILGATE
Sat., Sept. 16 • 2 p.m.
See.Spark.Go
250 N. Milledge Ave.
Athens, Ga. 30601

Introducing—Summer 2017 Interns!

Every semester, we work with some of the brightest students and future PR professionals. Brimming with motivation, enthusiasm and inspiration, these team members bring a burst of energy and fresh perspective to our work. Together, we learn how to balance tenacious work ethic and big responsibility with a hefty dose of fun.

Over the past 10 years, we have been able to help companies across the nation grow in influence by leveraging one foundational resource—our team! So without further ado, meet the rock stars who will be adding an extra dose of spark into our PR and social strategies this summer.

Left to right: Anna Alyssa, Rosemary, Kayla and Tom

Left to right: Anna Alyssa, Rosemary, Kayla and Tom

Anna Alyssa McKoy hails from the Classic City and relieves stress by organizing. You read that correctly—this girl has strategy written all over her! Her passion for writing began at a young age, allowing her to intern with the Athens Banner-Herald as a high school student. Like founder of SSG, Brittany Thoms, Woo and Positivity are her top two strengths according to Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment. She dreams of working in PR for a fashion label in the Big Apple one day, so keep an eye out as she makes her way to the top!  

SSG’s Atlanta intern, Kayla Watkins is cool, calm and collected. With Competition as her top strength, she easily rises to leadership roles in the organizations she serves. With sights set on a career in entertainment PR or law in Hollywood, she’s willing to go the distance. When she's not juggling school, work and campus involvement, she relaxes with a movie, follows trends on social media and searches for new, fun places to grab a bite to eat.

Rosemary Ankerich loves writing for both press and social media campaigns. These skills combined with her strengths of Discipline and Belief and her affinity for photography make her dream to be a travel photographer and blogger a little more realistic. When she's not working on PR and social media, catch her reading by the pool, spending time outside and sharing time with her 10-person family including her seven younger siblings adopted from China.

Tom Cullen grew up in central England. His passion for research led him to the States to pursue a graduate degree in history, but after a short time at UGA, he discovered his calling to the communication world. With Restorative as a top strength, his ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world. He would like to do that through earning a leadership role in a company. Cooking is his favorite pastime, and he takes the opportunity to bake savory muffins or macarons any time he can.

Follow along with us on social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) this summer to see the success of this great group of young communicators!

 

Intern with SSG in Summer '17—Athens or Atlanta!

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College years are pivotal for discovering how passions, skills and strengths can align for a career.

The pressure seems high as you try to figure out exactly where you’re supposed to be and how you’re supposed to contribute to the greater professional landscape. You take personality tests, volunteer, talk to people whose lives you want to emulate, and work your very hardest to boost every section of your resume.

All of these are important steps toward a first job. Yet, most careers find similar beginnings.

As professionals, we know the best way to sharpen skills and discover strengths is simple:

We learn by doing. 

Do you want to experience how brands come alive through storytelling in press and social media? Do you want to discover how your passions, skills and strengths can align with other professionals for a greater purpose?

If you are interested in joining a team of visionary, purposeful communicators, apply for our summer internships in Athens and Atlanta. Learn how below.

Apply: 

At See.Spark.Go, we interact a lot with clients, team members and reporters via email, phone and social media. Therefore, in addition to your resume, we’d like to receive a pitch email about why you would be a great fit for our team. If you haven’t noticed, we love a good outside-the-box thinker, so feel free to get our attention another way.

Picture the SSG team as the editors and yourself as the publicist, or maybe you’re a professional talent trying to get noticed by his or her dream brand. You could pitch us via email, create a social media campaign or even make a video about why you would be the best fit. This is a social media-heavy internship, so take advantage and get creative!

Please also include contact information for at least two professional references.

Applications are due by Friday, March 24, by 5 p.m. to jobs@seesparkgo.com.

Who do we seek?

  • The ideal candidate is an organized, self-starting team player with good interpersonal communication skills.
  • Candidates must have strong written and verbal communications skills and be well versed in the social media landscape.
  • Best suited for public relations, journalism, communications or marketing majors.
  • Juniors, seniors or recent grads preferred.
  • Class credit available. Up to 20 hours/week in the Grant Park or Milledge Ave. office.

Responsibilities:

  • Maintaining media lists and coverage files
  • Writing and editing press materials
  • Creating social media content and strategies
  • Collecting data and reporting social media analytics
  • Crafting campaign editorial calendars
  • Strategizing in accordance with press editorial calendars
  • Assisting with major press tours, events and campaigns
  • Additional responsibilities according to timely needs
  • Graphic design and development

7 Trends That Will Change Social Media in 2017

At See.Spark.Go, we always challenge our team to come up with new ways to do things. Always improve the process. Never accept the status quo.

A few years ago, we implemented a bi-weekly client deliverable called "Industry Highlights." Our team already scours the web for news and trends about each client, its industry and others in its sphere of influence, so we built a process around it and packaged it for the benefit of the clients we serve.

At the start of 2017, it dawned on us that we need to treat our own brand as a client. Thus, at the impetus of our newly minted intern staff, our own Industry Highlights were born. And, we're packaging them for all to see!

Here's what I can promise you: We are always innovating and looking for ways to add value to the world. After all, we get the opportunity to tell the best stories. I get the feeling if you're reading this, we have you to thank for that.

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Capitalize on Twitter and LinkedIn Updates to Increase Engagement | Part 2

As many of you know, we’ve opened SSG ATL, the second ever installment of See.Spark.Go. We may be laying roots throughout Georgia, but we tell the best stories all over. And, we have the best people (just sayin’). Our team and the company we keep attracted our first-ever Atlanta-based intern, Jordan Nations, all the way from Sarasota, Fla. See, we’re all over.

In case you missed Part 1, Jordan shared about recent updates to formerly text-driven platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. In this next installment, our social media/blog-writing protegé shares how you can put the tips to good use. Take it away, Jordan!

SO HOW DO YOU DO IT?

The positive impact of visual content in your organization’s communication is measurable, and it has never been easier to create and share visuals straight to your targeted consumer’s pocket.

Invest in quality pictures and graphics worth sharing.

Have a good quote to share from the CEO? Overlay that quote on top of a picture of them speaking. Want people to know the benefits of your product or service? Create an informative infographic that displays the information clearly with language consumers will understand. Use images from your events, office happenings or advertising to engage your audience and make your brand personal.

Another option is using high-quality photos from websites like Unsplash or Pixabay to enhance your content. These photos are free and can be used however you’d like according to each site’s creative commons licensing policy.

Do not underestimate the power of video.

Videos require more investment but increasingly prove to be the most engaging content on all social media platforms.

Make it sleek and professional, like the latest from our friends at Airstream releasing the new Basecamp:

Or more comical, like this one we developed with Barberitos:

Sharing your story—whether personally or professionally—on social media requires increasingly engaging content as the social space becomes more and more cluttered.

What are you doing to engage the world with your story?

Capitalize on Twitter and LinkedIn Updates to Increase Engagement | Part 1

We’ve asked our first Atlanta-based intern, Jordan Nations, to weigh in on all things visual marketing, social platform updates and how you can put the next best thing to good use as a marketer. Here’s part 1. Enjoy!

It’s no secret visual media dominates the social sphere right now. Consumers love to scroll their feeds, checking for one more picture of Doug the Pug on Instagram, sharing the latest Tasty video on Facebook or stumbling through Buzzfeed clickbait for the list of “27 Things Only Girls Who Love Blanket Forts And Tacos Will Understand.” (I made that title up, but wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on my feed later today.)

"It's officially Fall which means I am now a pumpkin" -Doug

A photo posted by Doug The Pug (@itsdougthepug) on

LinkedIn and Twitter have lagged behind visually driven platforms like Instagram and Facebook when it comes to images and video — choosing to differentiate themselves by being predominantly text-dominated platforms — but with some hot new updates, they’re both making a run at social media Gold in the unofficial user-engagement competition this year.

WHAT’S NEW?

Twitter announced last week that media attached to a Tweet no longer counts against the ever-tantalizing 140-character count. The previous limit with media was 124 characters, and though 16 extra characters may not seem like much, it makes a difference. If nothing else, we can all start spelling out “You” instead of choosing “U” when posting that all-too-relatable GIF or funny picture from the latest office outing. With other updates coming down the line for video and the recently introduced live stream of Thursday Night Football, it seems Twitter is rising as a contender in the visual market.

LinkedIn rolled out a revamped version of its publishing tool last week as well that employs an ultra-simplistic post editor and increased visual incorporation. Users now can embed videos, podcasts and slideshows into posts. This update creates opportunities for businesses and job seekers to create more interesting content to attract their targeted audiences more effectively.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

These updates signal a shift towards visual content, which research has proven is the best way to reach potential customers on social media:

Have a social media tip or best practice? Share with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Media Hosting 101

“To be a good host, you must also be a good traveler.”

—Kenneth Lander, THRIVE Farmers Co-Founder

Every story has a beginning, an origin. When a journalist has the chance to personally experience a brand’s process or foundation, it clarifies the lens through which he or she sees the brand. That’s why familiarization trips offer the perfect opportunity to share your brand story through experience.

THRIVE Farmers is changing the way you and I get our morning brew. This coffee company was birthed out of both necessity and a leap of faith after two entrepreneurs realized the brokenness of the coffee industry. The duo set out to change the economic reality for farmers across the globe. Other businesses latched onto this heart-driven ethos, and the brand grew more than 8,500 percent in three years, placing nineteenth on the Inc. 500 list this past August.

We had the privilege of traveling to Costa Rica, the birthplace of THRIVE Farmers, with the incredibly talented photographer, Michael George, for Inc. magazine’s September issue. If pictures say 1,000 words, an expert photojournalist can write a novel with his lens. Our job as communicators is to ensure the journalist has every opportunity to get that perfect shot.

So, in true See.Spark.Go fashion, here are our top #PRtips for hosting a successful familiarization trip:

Set expectations.

In any media coordination, it is important to find out as much information about the editor’s vision for the final piece as possible. The publicist’s job is to serve as the resource to all parties, so ask as many questions as necessary to be sure everyone knows where to be when and what the overall goals are.

How many days are necessary? What are the best flight times? Where should you meet at the airport? Where will you stay? How long is the commute from the hotel to your daily destination? What time of daylight is best for photos? What will the climate and weather be? What style does the photographer typically use? Can you help provide context for the destination with images before he or she gets there? When will the team eat? Do they need large breaks to tend to urgent emails? Will internet be readily available and what kinds of outlets do they use?

Answering these questions and more will help inform your schedule and avoid simple oversights from interrupting the success and productivity of your trip.

Be flexible.

Now that you have a crystal clear vision for all parties, throw rigid timeframes out the window. When was the last time you traveled without at least one unexpected interruption?

You never know when your photographer will need to scale a tree to capture the landscape or when your host will want to drive to his favorite spot to show you the Costa Rican sunset (no complaints here!).

Host everyone.

In the same way you would offer a visitor a drink in your home, you want to be sure you host everyone around you.

The best way to do this is to be sure you’re prepared with an “emergency everything” kit. Will there be bugs? Bring bug spray. Could someone cut themselves? Bring bandages. Will your team get hungry out in the field? Have snacks on hand.

If having an item on hand would make travel a little more comfortable for your host, your journalist or your subject, bring it along. This includes bottled water since we all can use the extra hydration. This extra preparation will pay off, promise!

Tell the story.

Our goal was to showcase the story of THRIVE Farmers from farm to cup—through sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, laughter, tears and dusty roads. Co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer Kenneth Lander brought us to a few of the very first THRIVE Farmers’ hillside crops and breakfast tables to share the story’s beginnings. 

We hiked through the coffee trees, touched the waxy leaves and ate homegrown mango with tortillas and gallo pinto. We pet kittens, met farm hands and jostled our way down country roads in a pickup truck bed. Farmers looked into the photographer’s eyes with sincere pride for their coffees and thriving crops, knowing they are the faces for something much bigger than themselves. Cuppers shared about the process with which coffee is tested to ensure utmost quality in a scientific lab. With every turn, Ken shared some piece of Costa Rican history or his own funny memory from a particular town.

The trip was steeped with purpose, and our photographer walked away with a deeper appreciation for his coffee than any email pitch could ever provide. He got it because he experienced it from farm to cup.

Have fun.

Remember, you’re experiencing the story too! Be sure to soak in the little moments. Ask about what most interests you as it could lead to something significant for future storytelling opportunities. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to share. And, don’t neglect your own lens. Personally share the story as it unfolds (but be sure you’re allowed to before you post!). Volunteer to hold the light reflector or stand in if the photographer needs to test out his lighting, and drink in every drop of the experience.

Say thank you.

Public relations, relating to the public, is founded on hundreds of personal relationships. We get to develop friendships with the people who hold the microphones of the world.

Whether the founder of a brand, a reporter on deadline or a coffee farmer, every person we interact with followed a dream, worked hard when no one noticed and took a risk to get where they are today. Our greatest privilege is to acknowledge just how much their work matters.

A hand-written note goes a long way. A swag bag allows the journalists to fondly remember their experience every time they pick up that mug or wear that T-shirt. A signed photo from the photographer to the subject creates a lasting connection that reaches far beyond the article. Gratitude marks the experience.

SeaWorld’s Change of Heart: Is It Too Little Too Late?

On March 17, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. announced its decision to end its captive orca breeding program and phase out its “theatrical” orca shows. In recent years, SeaWorld has been at the heart of heated controversy following a series of violent scandals, brought to light by the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish.” The documentary sparked both traditional and social media buzz and catalyzed a dialogue surrounding the ethicality of animal captivity and performance. Three years later, SeaWorld has finally succumbed to societal pressure (in the form of plummeting ticket sales and falling stock prices) to overhaul its best-selling act in favor of a more organic and educational orca experience. But is this decision too little too late, and can the brand survive without its cash cow?

Long Story Short…

In the wake of “Blackfish,” SeaWorld launched its “truth campaign” in an attempt to salvage its reputation and reassure the public of its commitment to the well-being of its animals. According to SeaWorld, the focus of this campaign was to address the wealth of “misinformation” surrounding the brand post-“Blackfish.” The campaign’s primary focus was its veterinary staff, its rescue efforts, and its non-whale species. Unfortunately, the campaign’s limited successes were overshadowed by its failed social media campaign, #AskSeaWorld, which invited more nasty criticism than sincere questions. In addition to its ongoing PR nightmare, SeaWorld has also faced substantial legislative and regulatory hurdles within the past two years: in early 2015, SeaWorld San Diego proposed plans to expand its orca habitat in an attempt to appease animal-rights activists while still continuing its orca shows. Later that year, the California Coastal Commission approved the project under one condition: the park would have to cease its captive orca breeding program. Then, in November, California Congressman Adam Schiff proposed the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act, a bill designed to end orca shows and illegalize captive breeding and capture of wild orcas. This series of complications has positioned the brand between a rock and a hard place, forcing it to do the unthinkable: bow to the mounting pressure and give up its orcas.

Now What?

So, what happens when SeaWorld has to give up the animal upon which its brand is built? Fortunately, SeaWorld bought itself some time, so it won’t have to completely reinvent its brand overnight: the orca show phase-out will take several years, and the company has pledged to care for its whales for the rest of their natural lives, which could be decades. That being said, the verbiage used by CEO Joel Manby in his op-ed and various interviews since provides some insight into what we can expect of the “new” SeaWorld. In response to the announcement, Manby has discussed the overarching issues of animal endangerment and extinction, writing that “in this impending crisis, the real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and man-made disasters such as oil spills — not zoos and aquariums.” Manby also announced SeaWorld’s partnership with its former adversary, the Humane Society––a move that is nothing short of strategic. Together, SeaWorld and the Humane Society intend to “work against commercial whaling and seal hunts, shark finning and ocean pollution.” Manby’s heavy emphasis on SeaWorld’s commitment to wildlife education and conservation efforts suggests that its brand will begin diversifying in response to what he calls society’s “attitudinal change.” Moving forward, we can expect SeaWorld to promote itself as an animal advocacy, rescue, and protection organization instead of as an amusement park.

Trends & Timeliness

SeaWorld’s “Blackfish” ordeal has taught the brand a lesson about the importance of trends and timeliness. Its first mistake was ignoring trends. In the 1970s, we knew little to nothing about orcas, so a combination of fear, awe, and curiosity attracted people to the parks; by the 1990s, Shamu was a household name, and Americans flocked to the parks for a seat in the “splash zone;” but by the 2010s, society had become disillusioned with the idea of animal captivity and performance, calling for reform of circuses and theme parks alike. SeaWorld’s belated recognition and acceptance of the animal advocacy movement has critics conflicted––is the move too little too late, or better late than never? You be the judge.

SeaWorld was, however, cognizant of the importance of timeliness in crisis communication. Legislation and regulations were ready to order an end to orca captivity; SeaWorld recognized that it had lost all the battles but could still win the war if it could find a way to regain control of the message––and that’s exactly what it did. Instead of waiting to be forced into major reform, SeaWorld beat them to the punch, allowing the brand to announce its changes on its own terms, in its own way. This proactive move is a welcome change from SeaWorld’s swell of reactive PR in recent years.

The Future
SeaWorld’s announcement, in conjunction with Ringling Brothers’ 2015 decision to end its elephant shows, provides the pleasant reassurance that our dollars really do matter. When societal issues like commercial corruption seem overwhelming and impossible to tackle, it’s nice to know that we, the consumers, really do have the power to affect change. Where and how we choose to spend our money reflect what we value as a society. This effect reaches beyond the amusement park industry; we see our dollars speaking volumes through the Made in America movement, the organic and local foods movements, and many more. So when you see the need for change in the world, just remember that you, the consumer, have the ability to make deliberate choices each and every day to show support and opposition of certain causes. Whether you agree with SeaWorld’s decision or not, the fact that consumers were able to force the hand of a multibillion-dollar company is a testament to the power of the people (and also capitalism).

“This is a guest post by Molly White who is currently apprenticing at See.Spark.Go.”