Book Preview: “Public Relations for the Public Good: How PR has shaped America’s social movements”

public relations

Editor’s note: The below Q&A with Shelley Spector previews her forthcoming book, available in August. 

You have a forthcoming book coming out this summer, “Public Relations for the Public Good: How PR has shaped America’s social movements.” Could you provide a synopsis?

The book (co-authored with Lou Capozzi) explores how public relations activities have been used to make social movements more successful.  While they were not called “PR” at the time, nor did they involve “professional” PR people, these historical milestones were, nevertheless, powered by people who understood public opinion and how to influence it. So there’s a lot to be learned about strategy, messaging, impacting attitudes, and measuring one’s impact.

The topics in the book include a wide range of topics spanning the 20th century: including, the Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire, the Harlem Renaissance, anti-smoking campaigns and civil rights campaigns.  To me, the most exciting thing about the book is that my students wrote most of the chapters.  This was for the class I teach at Baruch College/CUNY:  “From Plato to Twitter: A History of Influence, Media and Public Opinion.”   It’s exciting that our students have a chance to be published!

IMG_0609What inspired you to write the book?

While I find PR history fascinating, I find PR in history even more fascinating. When you look at historical events through the lens of PR, it often reveals PR in its purest sense. With social media dominating much of the workday of PR people, it’s important that young professionals understood that the Internet is just a channel, just like TV, film, word-of-mouth, carrier pigeons, pony express and cave drawings. It’s the message that counts, not the medium.

IMG_0611You’re also the founder of the Museum of Public Relations. How did the museum begin and what is your favorite artifact or resource within it?

The museum was the brainchild of Edward Bernays. What a wonderful way to preserve historical documents, books and artifacts that tell the story of our field. The first collection we received was from Bernays himself: two dozen first-edition books from his library, artifacts from the Light’s Golden Jubilee, original newsletters published by his wife and business partner, Doris Fleischman. 

I have a few favorites: The 1966 press release announcing the formation of the National Organization of Women (N.O.W.) with Muriel Fox and Betty Freidan as contacts. The issues of magazines from the 1930s that explore the burgeoning new PR field. The photographs of civil rights marches in the 1960s and collection of anti-slavery literature from a century before. And, of course, Bernays’s inbox.

FullSizeRender_1And what are some other examples of early public relations throughout history?

Every PR student learns about Bernays’s campaign to promote bacon and eggs, or Ivy Lee’s counsel to the Rockefellers.  Some of the best campaigns, though, are ones that are not mentioned in the textbooks. You can find wonderful examples of modern PR at work throughout the 20th century. Take for example, the campaign to raise public awareness for the polio vaccine; the “Meatless Tuesdays” program during World War II; the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; and the promotion of the Works Progress Administration during the Depression.  Some of the best “PR” programs may not be called “PR” but are every bit as much “PR” as Bernays’s campaign to boost sales for Ivory Soap.

You are an adjunct professor at Baruch College as well as president of Spector & Associates, working with aspiring PR pros every day. What is your go-to piece of advice for new professionals in the public relations industry?

Get as much “real world” experience while you’re in school or immediately after graduation. You want to be able to walk into your first job interviews with an impressive portfolio of work that displays, not only your “PR” skills, but your professionalism, creativity and drive. That may mean taking on internships (whether paid or unpaid) whenever and wherever you can.  We see young professionals apply here who already have four of five internships under their belts. This shows us that he or she is truly serious about making a career in this field, and already has the required skills so they can hit the ground running from Day One… One other suggestion, equally as important:  Become familiar with the organization before you even send your resume in. Chances are, you’ll be asked, “So why do want to work here?” “What attracted you to us?”  You’d be shocked to see how many have no idea beyond, “I saw your post on Indeed.”  The more time you spend researching the company the better that interview is going to be.

 Any additional information you’d like to share about the Museum of Public Relations?(I’ll include a note about how it’s open to the public by appointment, link to website, etc.)

The museum has a very active online presence, with 90k views on our website and 6,800 followers on the Facebook page, representing some 60 countries from every corner of the world. We have hosted a dozen classes so far this year, some over Skype.  We also host events for organizations, such as PRSA and the Plank Center, as well as give tours for PR agencies, such as Burson Marsteller, Weber Shandwick and Ketchum.  Scholars come from all over the world to do research here, as it is the largest and most complete repository of books and materials documenting the history of the field.

Editor’s note: The Museum of Public Relations is free and open to the public by appointment.

Any other book recommendations or “must reads” for PR professionals?

I would recommend the writings by Bernays and Lee (you can find them through our Facebook page).  Although their work was written nearly a century ago, Bernays and Lee remain the top writers of our practice. Their writings are as relevant today as ever.  

I would also urge everyone who aspires to succeed in this field to read the New York Times every day.  Keeping up with the news is essential in this business.

shellyShelley Spector is the president of Spector & Associates. She has counseled some of the world’s largest defense, technology and communications companies — from Exelis and ITT to HP and AT&T — and has won more than four dozen awards, including the Silver Anvil and Gold SABRE.  Prior to founding Spector & Associates in 1991, Spector worked at Hill & Knowlton and  RuderFinn, and served as press relations manager for the American Stock Exchange. She is an adjunct professor at the graduate level at NYU and Baruch College/CUNY.  Spector is also founder of the Museum of Public Relations. Spector earned a B.A. Journalism at the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University.

Leave Your Mark: A Book Review

Reading “Leave Your Mark” was like having a chat with the career mentor I always wanted, the kind of book I wish existed when I was in college.

Leave Your Mark: A Book ReviewDescribed as a career mentorship in a book, Aliza Licht takes readers on a tour of her career – from majoring in neurobiology in college to being SVP of Global Communications for Donna Karan International, while sprinkling invaluable nuggets of advice throughout her story.

DKNY PR Girl revolutionized the way brands use social media and Aliza Licht’s ideas and advice could very well change the way we young professionals use social media professionally – to search for jobs, too reach out to brands and pros we admire and to build our own personal brands. There’s so much to learn from her experiences whether you have a passion for fashion or not.

Unlike other career books out there, “Leave Your Mark” isn’t a how-to book. Reading it won’t tell you how to complete a particular task during your career or explain a certain trend in our industry. It’s not a textbook, but it’s something every aspiring, young and seasoned PR professional should read and keep on their bookshelves.

Aliza breaks down the book into sections on finding your dream career path, crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, getting the most out of an internship, nailing interviews, promotions and raises, getting ahead, handling a difficult boss or trouble coworker, using social media to your advantage and building your own personal brand.

Among the many gems she shares, these are the five best tips I found in “Leave Your Mark.”

  1. You reap what you sow.

Early on, Aliza tells a story relayed to her from a colleague. Her colleague received an email from an acquaintance on behalf of her daughter. Daughter wasn’t involved in the conversation at all – never even bothered to email herself. She didn’t get a job with the company, of course. The moral of this story is that you’ll only benefit from the work that you put in. If you’re not willing to put in the effort to find or get the job, it won’t be yours.

  1. Attention to detail is important no matter the job.

The most important thing you can do when applying for a job or internship is to pay attention. Applications have instructions, whether you’re applying online, via social media or the old fashioned way, and if you can’t follow whatever instructions were set, your application won’t even make it to the hiring manager’s desk. Same for spelling, grammar and, the worst offense of all, addressing it to the wrong person. The devil is in the details.

  1. Leverage your existing network in the job hunt.

Cold calls don’t really do much for anyone really. Aliza makes this point by saying that those who contact a potential new place of employment themselves are at a disadvantage and telling her own story of securing her first job at DKNY. She had heard of an opening at DKNY and asked an editor friend of hers to reach out and recommend her, which made DKNY seek her out. This can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re trying to relocate as you may not have connections in your new home, but when possible, it’s always the best way to go.

  1. Social media isn’t personal anymore.

We may love to use social media to share photos of our favorite meals or to live-tweet our favorite TV shows (excuse me while I blow up everyone’s Twitter feeds on Thursday nights. You can thank Shonda Rimes), but social media isn’t personal for PR pros. Your social media accounts are a virtual resume, whether you like it or not, and it’s important to make sure that you’re not costing yourself a job because of your affinity for oversharing or less-than-ideal after-work behavior.

  1. The best brand you can build is you.

The biggest thing I took away from “Leave Your Mark” were all of the great tips on building my own personal brand. Aliza shows through her own experience that building you is the most important thing you can do in your career. By working hard wherever you are, learning everything you can and always putting your best foot forward, you’ll build a great reputation for yourself that will precede you in your career.

RobynRobyn Rudish-Laning is a graduate of Duquesne University, with a bachelor’s in Public Relations, a master’s in Media Arts and Technology, and currently works as a PR Associate with Pretty Living PR, a boutique firm based in Pittsburgh. Find her on LinkedIn orTwitter or read her PR-focused blog

Book Review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: Telling Your Story In A Noisy Social World

Training. It’s a part of an athlete’s life, but it’s also important to PR pros.
From newbies to veterans, we all need to train ourselves to be storytellers for our companies, our clients and even our personal brands, on all the right social networks.
jab jab right hook book reviewConferences are great for training, but if you’re on a tight budget, especially as a new PR pro, your best bet is to hit the books. Enter Gary Vaynerchuk and his third book, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” which will train you how to tell your story in a noisy social world.
Vaynerchuk asks readers to consider “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” as a “training camp to prepare you to storytell on today’s most important social media sites.” 
The objective of great storytelling is to create outstanding content on the right platform, and he compares doing that to the sport of boxing (hence the jabs and right hook).
Key takeaways
I highlighted a lot of great points throughout my copy of the book, and the following three takeaways stood out to me most.
1. “Content is king, but context is God.” 
You can create really great content that is compelling, but if you put it out on the wrong platform—or it misses what a certain platform is all about—it won’t be the hit you expect it to be. And as Vaynerchuk points out, content for the sake of content is pointless.
2. “No matter who you are or what kind of company or organization you work for, your number-one job is to tell your story to the consumer wherever they are.” 
It could be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter , etc., but it is most likely that customers are on all three and even more than that. You need to make sure that your content is relevant to your customer on the platforms they utilize most.
3. “Skillful, native storytelling increases the likelihood that a person will share your content with a friend.” 
That increases your brand’s audience further and further. Shareable content makes your brand more memorable in the future and tells your story beyond your network of consumers.
Train by example
If you’re the typical new PR pro, you were probably a first adopter of many social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) that Vaynerchuk covers in “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.”
You know the ins and outs of these sites. But don’t think that means this book isn’t relevant to you!
It is easy for brands to get in the grind of posting the same content to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (I’ve seen it happen before), but that way of promoting content is a great disservice for the very reason why context is so important.
The best way to complete the training that this book offers is to flip through to the “color commentary.” This is where he breaks social networks up by chapter and gives countless examples of good and bad content with screenshots of various campaigns.
Some will make you rethink your strategy, and others will make you cringe, asking “what were they thinking?!”
Do you believe in the power of storytelling and context? What do you consider to be the most important way to get your brand noticed?
Victoria BepplerVictoria Beppler is a graduate of Waynesburg University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations as well a Master of Business Administration in Market Development. She currently manages social media, email marketing, the annual fund and more for her alma mater as the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations. When she isn’t in the office or traveling to alumni events around the country, you can find her working on a DIY project or hanging out with her husband, Josh, and their dog, Brinkley. Connect with Victoria on Linkedin and Twitter (@victoriabeppler).

Between You & Me: Book Review

As public relations pros, we often forget to refine our grammar in communication, and instead focus on mastering new pitching techniques or simply creating content.

Between You & Me: Book ReviewStrong writing starts with grammar though, and reading “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen,” by Mary Norris, is a painless, enjoyable way to review grammatical rules.

In her book, Norris–a former copy editor at the New Yorker–writes about her many years editing, while sprinkling in in actual grammar lessons and tying in short memoirs of her life. After reading the book, I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t reviewed some of the rules of grammar since learning them in junior high English!

Below are five of my favorite fun facts and rule reminders from the book:

  • Danglers: the dangling participle. Everyone has written a sentence with a dangler, which can be fixed by changing the subject of the sentence to match the participle or giving the participle its own phrase
  • “Who” does not change to “whom” just because it’s in the middle of a sentence
  • Serial comma: the one before “and” in a series of three or more things
  • The editors of Webster’s Third dictionary saved 80 pages by cutting down on commas
  • Copy editors will never be replaced, unless spell-check learns to recognize context

Each chapter is as cleverly named like the book title, such as “Comma Comma Comma Chameleon” and “A Dash, a Semicolon, and a Colon Walk into a Bar.”

For not being a history-buff myself, I found myself interested in learning how the different pieces of language came to be.

As the New York Times book review says, copy editors’ “obsessions, typographical and otherwise, make hilarious reading.” I would have to agree! Part linguistics, part grammar, part history and part memoir, Norris will captivate you with her book.

Hanna PorterfieldHanna Porterfield is the Newsletter Co-Chair of PRSA’s New Professionals section and an Assistant Account Executive at Development Counsellors International. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 and is actively involved in the alumni club’s New York chapter. Connect with Hanna on LinkedIn and Twitter (@citygirlhanna).

Book Review: Social Media ROI by Olivier Blanchard

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Image credit to

Paying it forward has been a popular buzz-theme as of late, especially within the context of professional development and social responsibility. When applied to social media, C.W. Leadbeater said it best, “You are what you share.” and if this book is any indication of paying it forward, Olivier Blanchard has embodied this ideal.

Blanchard starts with the basics; he delivers insights into the social media world with a no-nonsense light in Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. This “meat and potatoes” business guide, will help the inexperienced as well as the experienced develop and hone excellent social communications habits, mindsets and insights into effective social communication programs. A quote within the forward from Brian Solis best describes the affect that it will have on readers. Solis states, “Thanks to Olivier, you’ll find the answers to your questions and also answers to the questions that you didn’t know to ask.”

Social Media plays an increasingly larger role within communications and marketing. The digital landscape is arguably the fastest paced environment for PR practitioners and communicators to work in. Whether one works full time within the digital/social media realm or part of a team that implements social communications into strategy, it is of no consequence, this read is a MUST.

For years, the debate has raged as to how to prove or justify the ROI on digital/social efforts and surrounding the debate, many questions arise such as: Can it be measured, If it can, what should be measured and how does it correlate? How do I translate this to executives? These are but a few of those questions and the answer to all these questions, via Olivier Blanchard is a resounding yes!

Blanchard challenges professionals to take a much more serious and in-depth look at the organizational structure and base purpose of their programs. Blanchard says, “A social media program is not a mere marketing add on. More than anything, a social media program is neither simple nor easy.” This direct approach cuts through buzzwords and attributes what is important, why it is important and how it can be important for the reader.

Social Media ROI is a true resource. Blanchard aggregates some of the best lessons a communicator can use to assist their programs or to even develop a program that doesn’t exist. Some of the “KPI” of Social Media ROI are how to:

  • Align social media to business goals and functions
  • Get started by “listening before talking”
  • Leverage mobility and the “on-the-fly” social media culture
  • Establish the importance internally and externally the need for social media policies, guidelines and training
  • To deliver real-time digital support and customer service

If the “KPI’s” given freely in this book weren’t enough, Blanchard in his generosity of spirit with his pay it forward mentality, provides a free online edition when his paperback has been purchased.


264032cJR Rochester is the current membership co-chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section. Connect with him on Twitter @TrulyJR