A Life of Communication

Inspired by Coty: A Whole New World

Last week, I attended OCALICON 2013. Boy, was I out of place. The conference is a national conference and exhibition on autism, assistive technology and low-incidence disabilities (including visual impairments, hearing impairments and more). I know next to nothing about autism. I was asked to attend the conference as a PR representative from the PRactice. The PRactice is a student-run public relations firm at The Ohio State University. I am an Account Associate at the firm. My job was to attend two guest speakers at the conference, writing blog posts for OCALI. A large group of students were also responsible for drafting tweets for Ohio Autism account.

This was my first “big girl” PR event. I dressed up, put on a smile and boarded the COTA bus to the Convention Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

I was surprised how much I learned in six short hours. More importantly, my eyes were opened to a world that I had never experienced. I love when the Lord blesses me with cool opportunities like this.

Here is one of the blog posts I wrote for OCALI. This experience was too amazing not to share.

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“Look at me now,” said Coty Marks, 22 year-old college student on the autism spectrum. “I enjoy long walks on the beach, playing video games and drinking with friends.”

On Nov. 20, Coty gave his first presentation to a group of 25 curious spectators at OCALICON 2013. With confidence, Coty told us his story.

Coty Marks

Coty Marks presenting at OCALICON 2013

Autism, according to Webster, is a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

At a young age, Coty was placed on the autism spectrum. He was originally diagnosed as “severely retarded,” unable to verbally communicate to those around him. After hours of one-on-one attention, Coty spoke his first sentence at the age of 13.

His mother, Judy Marks was moved to tears. After years of IEPs and struggling to hear “I love you” from her only son, they had finally made progress. Judy remarked that Coty has spent more than 10,936 hours (and counting) working on communication and integrating into society.

For Coty, and many others on the autism spectrum, the key to successful communication is asking specific questions. His mother noted asking, “how was your day at school?” never elicited a response. Instead, she asked Coty what he did at school while eating pizza with his friends at lunch, would more likely get an answer.

From that moment on, Coty began to make remarkable improvements. His mother fought for Coty, attempting to give him the quality of life he deserved.

“You can’t really outgrow your disability,” said Coty, “you learn to adapt.”

Adapting is the hardest part of living with autism. From learning hidden curriculums in school to driving a car, Coty was determined to make improvements. In college, the hidden curriculum includes things like: what happens when I skip class, what is appropriate public behavior, who you tell about your disability, etc.

After an extra two years of high school, working on social skills, Coty was ready for college. When he began the the extra two years, he started at a new school. He attributed much of his success to this “fresh start.”

“The hardest part of living with autism is making friends,” said Coty.

With the ability to begin at a new school Coty was able to tell who he trusted about his diagnosis. He was no longer bullied; making friends became much easier. His male mentor also played a big role in his transition process. This gave him the confidence to transition into college.

“Guys relate to guys,” said Coty. “We like to fist bump, flirt with girls and talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

In college, he studies computer science engineering. His mother attributes his success in college thus far to “backward planning.” This is when a student begins with a goal, then works backward to figure out how to reach the goal.

“We take one step at a time,” Judy said. “Right now, we are focused on graduation.”

Coty frequently has friends stay over, enjoying the companionship he has desired his entire life. When he graduates, Coty envisions himself owning a house and starting a family. He hopes he can continue to present his story, encouraging other students and families who are affected by autism.

I asked him what he would tell people if he was able to relay one message to the world. A big smile spread across his face.

“Never give up,” said Coty, “no matter what the cost.”

Check out OCALI’s website for the PowerPoint the Marks used for their presentation and more information on Coty and Judy.

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What do you think? Did Coty’s story inspire you?

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A Life of Communication

How Blogging Can Help YOU Succeed

Yesterday, a guest speaker presented in my COMM 3163 (Industry Research Methods) class. He was a representative from Fahlgren Mortine. He gave a presentation about his job, his research and offered a few helpful tips for students entering the work force.

One of the things he said really stuck with me. He told us that, as a communication professional, writing is a critical skill that employers look for. He specifically mentioned blogging as a way to stand out in a group of interviewees. This got me thinking, how can blogging truly help you succeed? And, perhaps even land you a job?

I read a great article on Start-Up Resources, outlining a few ways that blogging can seriously help your business. I also participated in a Twitter Chat last week, discussing successful blogging techniques. The Twitter Chat is under the hashtag #AskAngel. The premise of the chat is to ask Angelique (a professional in blogging, social media, marketing communications, etc.) anything. Some of the people involved in the chat offered some great insight on blogging! I pulled a few key takeaways from the author of the article on Start-Up, the Twitter Chat and came up with some of my own to compile this handy list of successful blogging techniques.

1. Add fresh, quality content to your blog on a regular basis. You can do this by writing posts, something that search engines love. This has the potential to move your post closer to the top of a Google search for example.

Plus, no one wants to read the same old blog posts over and over. Stay relevant.

2. That being said, make sure that links within your blog are also relevant. If you are posting a link to an article that was written more than a year ago, make sure you have a valid reason. In the age of constant communication, news becomes old very quickly.

3. Purchase the dot com! I have not done this, and I probably should. But alannatoney.com looks a ton more professional than alannatoney.wordpress.com

4. Stay consistent with the topics on your blog, but do not post the same thing over and over. If your blog is about communication in society and quiet times with Jesus (like mine), stick with that. Blogs that are all over the place tend to lose readers and subscribers. People want to read relevant content.

As you can see, staying relevant is a pretty important part of blogging.

5. Pay special attention to the picture that Facebook and other social media sites will pick up when you post a link to your blog. Thank you, Angelique, for pointing this out!

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Twitter Chat #AskAngel

6. Headlines are important. A professor in the communications department  at Ohio State pointed this out to me, prompting me to go back and change some of the headlines of my previous posts. Give your readers a sneak peek!

What do you think? What would you add to this list?

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A Life of Communication

Finally, a Brand That is About More Than Just Profits.

I am really excited to talk about this. I was watching the news this morning and an anchor mentioned the new TOMS Marketplace. I love my TOMS shoes, so the mention of the brand grabbed my attention immediately. This may be the best PR I have seen this year!

TOMS has launched this online marketplace to showcase other socially conscious brands. TOMS is famous for their buy-one-give-one line of shoes and sunglasses. The new online marketplace features other brands and companies who are using their products to benefit others. The idea of the marketplace is to provide a one-stop shop for consumers to purchase goods that benefit the world.

What is unique is that the TOMS Marketplace is NOT about TOMS. The website features many different products and brands. Each product that can be purchased by the consumer gives back to the world in a different way. For example, some brands support education, fight hunger or fund reforestation.

TOMS is represented by Turner PR. According to the website, the PR team was brought on to help the brand get recognition on a global scale. This new marketplace will bring a ton of press coverage to the brand! Its a sneaky way to get your brand talked about without a bunch of meaningless advertising that consumers don’t pay attention to.

As a PR student, I looked up TOMS press releases. Believe it or not, what we are learning in class in actually useful in the real world! Check out this public relations plan for TOMS. The plan even includes a SWOT analysis. The campaigns class I am taking is actually going to come in handy!

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Gray Canvas Toms

And yes, I LOVE my TOMS. I get mine from the children’s section, which saves me some money and they fit better!

What do you think? Is this new marketplace a genius plan for TOMS? Or, do you believe that it could hurt TOMS?

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A Life of Communication

What Happened to Thanksgiving?

Trick or treat! Wait, I meant happy holidays! But where did Thanksgiving go? It seems that every year Christmas seems to come a bit sooner than it did the year before.

We are already seeing the first holiday commercials, airing just days after Halloween has ended. Toys R Us has already released their expectations for best sellers this year. Christmas is still two months away!

Has advertising taken over and rid our world of the joy of Thanksgiving? What do you think?

Here is a great article from Relevant Magazine that gave me the idea to write this blog post. According to the Relevant writers, Americans spend more than $400 billion every year on Christmas. YIKES! This makes our job as PR professionals a little bit harder. How do we break through the clutter and represent our clients best?

Why is Christmas coming early this year? I almost forgot to register to vote this year. Perhaps this year seems to be more advertising heavy because there is not a presidential election. There are few ads about voting this season, leaving even more room for media planners to snatch up advertising space for the latest products this holiday season.

Maybe Thanksgiving is being forgotten because people are more concerned with Black Friday than spending time with their family. Some stores even open on Thanksgiving night! I was always surprised to see people camping outside of retail stores to get the latest gadgets for a somewhat discounted price. Good job marketers and PR, this is your dream come true! When I was in high school I worked at Best Buy for three years. That means I was scheduled to work on three Black Fridays. This is the closest I will ever get to “shopping” on this crazy day of the year. When I was a junior in high school, a family set up a tent outside the store THREE days before Thanksgiving. They even brought a grill and cooked a turkey right in the parking lot.

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Life of a Best Buy Employee on Black Friday

This is a picture of how I felt after Black Friday at Best Buy. And yes, I am hiding in a box trying to sleep. Little did you know that after I sold you a computer I hid behind the counter in a giant box.

Even though I study communications, advertising, public relations and how to gain the consumer’s attention… I am not willing to sacrifice time with my family to save some money. It’s no wonder that, as Americans, we skip over a holiday focused on thankfulness, and focus on a holiday that has become an unfortunate expression of wanting to purchase anything we can get our hands on!

Finally, I think that Christmas is coming early this year because there is a focus on low-income shoppers. Many stores are offering free lay-away and payment plans for the holiday season. This is a brilliant idea from the marketers all over the world.

What do you think? Have we forgotten about Thanksgiving?

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A Life of Communication

Social Media is Changing the Job Search Game

Do you monitor your social media sites for appropriate content? If not, you may want to start.

According to Buzzfeed, your job search after graduation could look like this.

Social media has undoubtedly changed our environment in the past few years, but what we may fail to recognize is how social media has changed the job search process. Employers can no longer rely on only face-to-face communication with potential employees. Employers must think on a global level and understand a few key concepts about social media.

As I head in to my final semester of college, I begin to face the reality that I need to start job hunting. As I began the process I came across some interesting information about social media communication and building a career. Here are a few key points from my research:

1. Social media allows companies to create potential job opportunities.

Think your communication degree is pointless? Think again. Many companies all over the world are hiring positions JUST for running the organization’s social media. Be creative! The best advice I have received from a professional working in the PR industry is, “If you think that a company is missing something, point it out and create your own job!” From personal experience, I know this has worked. Don’t be afraid to tell your boss (politely) that your company could use a little website refresh and updated Twitter content. Who knows, maybe you could land yourself a brand new position!

2. Social media brings people together who may have never connected before!

This is a big one! Want to work for a company? Tweet at them! You will be surprised at how positively the organization responds, specially if you are a strategic communications major. Just a few weeks ago I tweeted at a PR agency in South Carolina. Check out how they responded!

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Following their response, I sent my resume and cover letter!

3. Social media allows future employers to check out their potential employees.

The best part of social media is that it is open to everyone. The worst part of social media is that it is open to everyone. Companies now have full time employees who are hired to check a potential employee’s social media presence. If you and another candidate are equally qualified for a position, but your profile picture is you chugging a beer… who do you think the company would hire? Think before you post. Here is a great article from Huffington Post about employers checking Facebook before hiring.

4. Social media can tell a potential employer a lot about your personality. 

We all have that friend who constantly complains on Facebook and Twitter. We also all have the friend who posts 43348738574938 pictures of themselves. Be conscientious about how you are branding yourself via social media. Save the rants for your close friends. Trust me, your employer will think much higher of you if you are professional and approachable.

What have you guys found about social media as it relates to the job search?

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A Life of Communication

Don’t Discount the Power of a Twitter Chat

If you are visiting this blog looking for posts about my Quiet Times… scroll down! If you want to read about my communications class…. read this wonderful post!

Last week, one of my communications classes participated in a Twitter Chat. If you’ve never heard of this before, it is pretty simple. A Twitter Chat is an interactive conversation, using a hashtag to link everyone together at a certain time. Our class used #COMM3334 to tie all our comments together.

Our class hosted two professionals, Rob Lovell and Katie Taybus. Katie works in communications for Ohio Broadcasters and Rob works in Marketing for Bath and Body Works. They both talked about their work history, sharing what they learned from each job they held. I found the information very useful, considering I am a senior in college getting ready to enter the work force.

Some highlights from their presentation and our Twitter Chat:

1. NETWORK. NETWORK. NETWORK.

Networking is very important in both the communications and marketing field. Who you know can sometimes play a vital role in how well you perform in a job. Also, keeping established relationships is important for growth within a company.

2. Provide customers with what they want to see and hear.

Katie used Ohio Broadcasters as an example. She helped her company use the hashtag #TBT (Throwback Thursday) to engage customers in a conversation that is already trending.

3. Don’t forget about LinkedIn.

Using LinkedIn is a professional way to establish yourself on Social Media. Keep your profile updated and make connections! Today’s society is ONLINE. It is silly to think that a possible employer will not “Google” your name before hiring you. Make sure your internet presence positively reflects you. You never know what companies may be checking your resume online.

Check out this great article about how to create a stellar LinkedIn profile!

4. Be curious.

Ask questions if you have them! It is better to ask a question than to turn in a Press Release, etc. with incorrect content. Also, don’t be surprised when you receive criticism when you begin a new job… take it constructively!

5. CONTENT IS KING.

Think about what messages you are sending to consumers.

Here is an awesome article about how to participate in a Tweet Chat!

Here is a screen shot of some of the Tweets from our #COMM3334 hashtag.

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What do you think about these points?

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A Life of Communication

The Scarecrow Becomes a Star for Chipotle

I am sure you have all heard about the new viral video from Chipotle. If you havent, check it out. http://youtu.be/lUtnas5ScSE

The video is called “The Scarecrow,” and it features an animated scarecrow discovering the truths about the food industry in America. In my opinion, this is one of Chipotle’s best marketing and PR plans. Not only have they created an eye-opening, intriguing and fascinating animated video… they have created thousands of online impressions and the company is now being tweeted and talked about all over the world.

scarecrow-chipotle

(Source)

One of my favorite parts of this campaign is the draw for gamers to download “The Scarecrow” application on their smart phones and tablets. The free app is an arcade style game that allows players to jump into the Scarecrow’s master plan to bring wholesome food back to the people. Although disguised as a fun game, the purpose is to educate players about the world of industrial food production. Check out the company’s press release for more information. I promise, it is an interesting read!

More on the marketing and creative side of things, I really enjoy that the creators chose to use the song “Pure Imagination” for the YouTube video. Adds another fun touch to this campaign!

Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle,  said, “In many ways, ‘The Scarecrow,’ represents what we aspire to accomplish through our vision of Food With Integrity. In a system that is so heavily dominated by industrial agriculture and factory farms, we are committed to finding better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use and to helping build a better food system, much the same as the character in ‘The Scarecrow’ is taking important steps to fix what he perceives as being broken in his world.”

What do you think? Do you like the new campaign?

On another note, while researching about this post I found another interesting article about the PR team at Chipotle. 

I would not be mad if I worked for this company in the future. They seem to have a good reputation and a great PR team!

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