Lululemon’s CEO to learn new yoga pose: “Foot in mouth”


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If you make yoga pants, you have to know that someone a bit, well…large might wear them. So when the CEO of Lululemon Chip Wilson, responded to allegations that his company’s pants weren’t living up to their $100-per-pair price tag and had an “unacceptable level of sheerness”- it seems only logical that he’d respond.

But, we don’t all have bright public relations minds. Williams responded to claims of “unacceptable sheerness” in an off-the-cuff way, saying “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it”- referring to Lululemon’s yoga pants. Wait, did he just say that some women are too fat for his product? No matter how accurate this might be, as CEO of a company, you can’t say something like this in public.

As expected, public outrage ensued. So the company did what any reasonably public relations savvy company would do, issued a formal apology on YouTube. The apology begins with Wilson visibly emotional, so far so good. Then… he proceeds to apologize, still, good. And just when you think everything is going uphill, things turn sour. Wilson starts apologizing to the “people at Lululemon that I (he) really care about.” Lululemon? Are you serious? Whatever happened to the old mantra, being sensitive to customers?

Not only did these tick-off costumers even more, this so-called apology was pathetic. So where does Lululemon go from here? David Shank, president and CEO of Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc., and Marilyn Shank, vice president, both say “hire a good spokesperson.” More specifically, Marilyn says to hire a woman who will represent the perspective of the company’s main consumers, women.

There’s a lot to be learned from Wilson’s outlandish comment and slightly ill-advised apology. So, to accompany David and Marilyn’s advice, I offer a few helpful suggestions. Don’t speak before you think! Some of the most avoidable statements in history wouldn’t exist had the person taken the time to think before speaking. And last, clearly define who your consumer base is: if young, thin (women sizes 0-12), trendy, affluent are who you serve, make that clear so customers know your products are meant for that target audience. Speaking arbitrarily can get you into a lot of trouble, it will be interesting to see how the pull themselves out of this pickle.

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Let’s Talk Event Planning


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Let’s take a brief detour from social media to discuss strategic event planning, something  David and Marilyn Shank have proved to be masters at for over 25 years. I find it’s only right that we highlight two of their most recent higher profile events, a Walmart grand opening and a public memorial for an officer gunned down in the line of duty. I asked David and Marilyn a series of questions.

 Q: What are the first steps you take in planning a large-scale public event that incorporates media, general public and public officials?

 D: “First you have to think about the overall strategy for your objective. In our Walmart grand opening we had several things we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to communicate that Walmart is here to serve the community and we wanted to be memorable. Then we looked at the proximity to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, realized the tradition of racing in the community and approached the store manager.

 

We wanted her to make a grand entrance, in a two-seater race car. When it came time to cut the ribbon, we wanted it to be exciting! Cutting the ribbon with a big pair of scissors is fine, but also boring and not relevant. So, we had city council members, the deputy mayor and regional managers of Walmart break through the ribbon with logo’d shopping carts. This was more exciting than just cutting the ribbon.”

 

“At the fallen officer memorial, we wanted to give residents of the apartment complex where he was killed the chance to continue the grieving process for an officer who epitomized the protect and serve pledge of all police officers. It was a matter of being sensitive to everyone involved. We were aware that media coverage could be insensitive. We made it clear that media were not to report live during the program.”

Q: When something goes wrong, what is your thought process? What actions are taken?

D: “Always assume something is going to go wrong, and in the back of your mind, come up with everything that could go wrong and how you to fix it. With Walmart, we considered if the shopping carts didn’t break through the ribbon. A few days before, we thought about it, and made sure it wouldn’t be an issue. We pre-cut the ribbon and taped it so that it would break easily. You have to use creativity”.

 

“During the memorial, we asked media not to report live from the back of the room. I told them, if they do this, I would come behind them and photo bomb them if they did. They got the message and we avoided that issue altogether. Also, we invited ministers who didn’t show. We quickly fixed the issue by having someone else step in and read a the message.”

 

Q:  What role does having connections in a number of different industries play into an event as a whole?

 

M: “For every event, having connections to get the right people there is important. For example, we had short notice for the memorial. With only two days to prepare, we had to execute an event and find a location. We contacted the elementary school near the apartment complex where the officer was shot.  They were able to provide us with a facility for the day.”

Q: What do you feel determines if an event will be successful or not?

 

M: “Always ask the client and yourself what you’re trying to accomplish with an event. That’s generally, are we just trying to get bodies here? Are we trying to raise money? That’s how you measure the success of an event. Going into a slightly different event, the IPS Alumni Hall of Fame was an event that happened at about the same time frame. We wanted to portray IPS as a productive education institution, to honor alumni and for kids to be with other adults, so they would be inspired. But it’s also a money maker for the foundation, so you measure that by: Did we get kids there? Was it good attendance? Did we make money? And did people come away with a great feeling about IPS? And you have to be specific about your goals. You can pack a house with every intention of raising money, but did you invite the right people to donate and did they donate?”

So there you have it, from the masters themselves. Having contacts, being aware of everything that could go wrong and making sure there are back up plans in place at an event are all important. These are all things that can largely determine the ultimate success or failure of an event.  

 

Responding to negative social media comments


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In keeping with the current theme of social media, I sat down with Principals’ David and Marilyn Shank to further examine the issue of responding to negative social media comments. This blog will follow a Q&A format.

Q: When should you respond to negative social media comments and is there ever a time you shouldn’t respond?

M: “If there is misinformation given in a negative comment, you need to politely correct the information. You also want to respond when a customer asks for help regarding a product or service. In those two instances, there is not a decision to be made, you need to respond. If you correct misinformation or deal with a complaint, you’ve taken it off the table. You should not respond when it’s a person whose opinions you are not likely to change and when the person or persons commenting are not your target audience”.

D: “It depends on the medium. You have to be careful about how you address someone; you never want to sound too corporate, or condescending. And as a writer, you need to convey empathy and sometimes even a good sense of humor can help lighten the mood, or even solve the problem. But, humor can be tricky. It has to be in good taste and not appear to demean or diminish the issue”.

Q: So how do you craft a lighthearted sincere response?

M: “Social media expects you to be human, so if you are too corporate sounding or say something that doesn’t resonate with audiences, people will pick up on it. There’s also a tendency to be lighthearted or sarcastic and you do have to be careful not to go too far, especially if you are representing a company. You never want to insult someone’s intelligence by asking if they’ve plugged in since their nonfunctioning washing machine or computer. You might ask a question or two, to see if you are dealing with someone who is starting from ground zero or someone whose product truly isn’t working”.

Q: Throughout your career, how have you formulated key messages to assist with complaints and that provide insight to your companies overall mission?

D: “You want messages that resonate with people. Take Walmart, their basic philosophy “low prices, live better,” resonates with people and reinforcing this key message is important when appropriate. But there could be times when key messages can sound like cookie cutter phrases”.

M: “We had a client selected for a project that got a lot media coverage. On the comments section of prominent publication, a person who interviewed with the company but didn’t get the job continually bad mouthed the company and our client was livid. I advised them to wait before responding, and shortly thereafter other people defended the company and their reputation”.

That wraps up our second edition of The Principals’ Office. Hopefully I’ve provided some insight to crafting key messages and responding to company bad mouthing. For more information on what we do at Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc., follow us on Twitter @Shank_PR, like us on Facebook and check out our website at http://www.shankpr.com. The topic for our next installment is how much is too much: When does your companies posting & tweeting become annoying?

Can 140 characters save your company or lives in a crisis?


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I’m Alexander Beauford, a senior at the University of Indianapolis and the new intern for Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc. Although it’s been a few weeks since our last post, we are back and prepared for an exciting new four-part series on social media. I’m in the Principals’ Office to begin part one where I sit down with President David Shank, APR and Vice President Marilyn Shank, APR to discuss the current social media landscape.

As news becomes more and more real-time, and the message becomes condensed into 140 characters, one might ask just how sound bite-like information can help your company in a crisis? In a recent Public Relations Society of America article, author and public relations professional Melissa Agnes analyzes the Boston Police Department’s social media reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings. Agnes says there should be a plan when a crisis arises. Although Boston PD had no detailed social media plan, they did an excellent job communicating a consistent message across all platforms, especially Twitter. The police department was able to get public safety information to their nearly 300,000 followers, reducing significantly the number of casualties, injuries and the possibility of widespread panic. 

According to David Shank, “there are always potential downfalls, but social media is a good tool to use during a crisis. The goal is to allay people’s fears with accuracy.” He added that you are able to discredit rumors and confirm things that are true. Additionally, Shank says that monitoring tweets can lead to knocking down false information. At the same time of the marathon bombings, there was a separate explosion at the Kennedy Library in Boston. A library employee was monitoring the Twitter feed and confirmed the library blast was a separate issue not caused by an act of terror.

Conversely, social media can get you into trouble. During the 2012 presidential election a member of the KitchenAid social media team sent a tweet dispraising The President from what he thought was his personal Twitter account. Turns out, it wasn’t. The tweet was sent from the official KitchenAid Twitter account which nearly caused a huge controversy. Not only was the tweet sent from the official account of a strong household brand, it used the hashtag #nbcpolitics. Thousands were subject to viewing the tweet.

“@KitchenAidUSA Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #NBCPolitics”

Marilyn Shank says although it is more difficult, it is vastly important to double and triple check tweets. It is more difficult because of the turnaround time of Twitter; once a tweet is sent anyone can view it. She also says that since tweets are sent in real time, so should your responses. “Analyze who follows you on Twitter and ask yourself if they are truly your key publics/stakeholders, you never want to over respond,” said Marilyn.

In analyzing who these followers are, you can craft your message so it is strategic, yet sincere. Thanks to skillful public relations professionals, KitchenAid recovered before irreversible damage was done, sending a succession of tweets to President Obama and everyone on Twitter:

“Deepest apologies for an irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand’s opinion. #nbcpolitics”

“I would like to personally apologize to President @BarackObama, his family and everyone on Twitter for the offensive tweet sent earlier.”

“It was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team who, needless to say, won’t be tweeting for us anymore.”

These tweets are the result of quick-thinking public relations minds. Not only did KitchenAid reverse the problem by formally apologizing, they ensured  it never happened again by relieving the tweeter of his duties. David Shank says that because of the breadth and coverage of the medium, someone needs to be constantly fact checking and making sure tweets accurately represent a company’s brand.

Marilyn Shank, David Shank and Melissa Agnes agree that having prepared communication in a crisis situation is vital. Addressing the issue head-on is also important, if KitchenAid had not done so, an incident of this magnitude could lead to negative brand association or even long-term profit loss.  Owning up led to a number of positive tweets defending KitchenAid:

@kitchenaid had a tweet incident that MANY companies have had. Shout out to the bigwigs for owning up & apologizing on behalf of the brand.”

 And…

“Get off Kitchenaid’s back. Most of you who were too cool for the debate are having a field day with this. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.”

The dynamic of crisis communication is drastically changing as technology develops. Years ago, you had weeks, then a week, a few days, 24 hours and most recently a matter of minutes or seconds to respond to a crisis. Simply put, crisis communication has undergone a radical pattern shift. And now that information is more readily available it is important to present it accurately. So in the words of Walter Cronkite-consider this, “We want to be first, but we want to be right first.”

The Principals’ Office: Goals, Strategies, Objectives, Tactics and Evaluation


Rick Teitloff, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

Since this is my last week as the intern here at Shank Public Relations Counselors, this is my last visit to the principals’ office. While all of my Q & A sessions with David and Marilyn have been interesting and informative, this one was especially so. The interview took such a new direction I’ve decided to ditch the Q & A format for this edition and write a regular blog.

This week I asked David and Marilyn about goals, strategies and tactics. The conversation took off and didn’t stop for a while. There was so much information pouring out of them that I’m going to try and summarize it for you to help you better understand the strategic and creative process in public relations.

In the creative process, you begin with a goal and go through steps to achieve that goal. In the end, it all circles back to the goal, which led to me dubbing the process the “public relations circle of life.” To help illustrate the public relations circle of life, I’m going to use an imaginary company called Simba’s Grubs.

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Goal

A goal is the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. Simba’s Grubs’ goal is to become the number one supplier of delicious grubs in the Pride Rock Kingdom and the surrounding region.   

Strategy

A strategy is the broad overview of what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to go about it. Simba’s Grubs’ strategy is to use social media to achieve their goal.

Objectives

Objectives are measurable results that are quantifiable by metrics and time. Simba’s Grubs’ objectives in the next six months are to:

1.      increase likes, followers and friends by 50 percent.

2.      build two new grub hatcheries to meet demand.

3.      hire two friends to help harvest grubs (who could he hire?!).

Tactics

Tactics are “the fun stuff” or the tools you use to achieve your goal, according to David. Simba’s Grubs’ tactics are to:

1.      offer exclusive coupons for likes, followers and friends.

2.      create a new app where users have to catch as many grubs as possible to make people want more grubs.

3.      create key market ads to drive an increase in likes, followers and friends.

Evaluation

Evaluation is the final step in the process. Evaluation is measuring the results of your process and comparing it to your goal to see if accomplished your goal. It is best to be as specific as possible with your evaluation. A useful tool in this might be polling consumers before and after the process to compare perceptions, attitudes and results. Some things Simba’s Grubs’ could do are:

1.      track the use of the coupons used.

2.      survey followers and friends to gauge any shift in attitude.

3.      interview those who viewed the ad created for the campaign.

4.      Determine how close are we to being the number one supplier of grubs?

So there you have the public relations circle of life. Who knew they were so public relations smart over there at Pride Rock?

Understanding this process is essential to a successful public relation campaign. When I asked David what the biggest mistake people make in this process is, he said, “People often confuse tactics with strategy. Tactics are the fun stuff! But the strategy is the roadmap that defines the tactics.”

With that, I leave the principals’ office for the last time. No worries though, on my way out I saw a guy named Alex waiting in the office to see the principals…

Rick Teitloff is our summer 2013 intern. Rick is a senior at Ball State University and will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public relations in December.

 


The Principals’ Office: Non-writing Skills and Traits Essential for Public Relations


Principals' Office ImageRick Teitloff, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

After missing a couple of weeks due to the fourth of July, I’m back in the principals’ office with David and Marilyn Shank – the principals of Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc.

In this edition we discuss non-writing skills and traits essential to being successful in public relations. We all know that writing is imperative in public relations, but it is only one piece of the puzzle in becoming a bona fide public relations professional.

Rick (R): What’s the most essential skill for public relations?

David (D): “Thinking — recognizing and developing strategy that leads to why you’re writing something. Once you know your strategy and message, writing becomes the most important. The pecking order goes strategy, message, writing.”

R: Are there skills or traits that you must have that can’t be taught?

Marilyn (M): “No. Some skills such as problem solving, people skills and cultural awareness are more difficult to teach, but not impossible.”

D: “There are two things public relations professionals need that can’t be taught: an innate curiosity and assertiveness. You can teach somebody how to question things, but not true curiosity. An example: I was eating at a revolving hotel-restaurant. I’m a naturally curious person and wondered how the restaurant was able to revolve. I called the public relations manager of the hotel the next day and she told me it revolved on ball bearings. The company that supplied the ball bearings for the restaurant happened to be a client. I wrote a nice application piece that was used by vertical trade magazines. You can’t teach that kind of curiosity and assertiveness.”

R: What non-writing skills and traits do public relations professionals have to have to make it?

M: “Problem solving, strategic thinking, people skills, knowledge of media, cultural awareness, knowledge of government and the ability to work with different types of clients.”

D: “Flexibility. In public relations you’re going to encounter things you’d never imagine – don’t be afraid of new and challenging experiences. You have to be curious and assertive – ask why something does or doesn’t work. And you have to be mature – you’re not always going to get your way, and the way you handle those situations will dictate how far you go in public relations. Maturity is the key to handling those situations the right way.”

R: Are there any skills or traits that a public relations professional might need that aren’t necessarily obvious?

M: “Honesty with yourself and with your employer. In public relations, you have to work with a variety of clients. If you’re interviewing at an agency and they tell you you’ll be doing work for a certain type of company that you have a problem with, you’d better tell them. Nobody benefits when you get hired there and you refuse to work with the clients you’re assigned to.”

D: “You have to be able to do basic business mathematics. Return on investment, metrics, budgeting and analytics are important in today’s public relations. ‘I’m not a numbers person’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

R: Choose one skill or trait that you find the most important in an employee. Go!

D: “I’m going to give you two (apparently the rules don’t apply to David): business mathematics and a visual thinker – having the ability to project the strategy and tactics before putting pen to paper. Making a concept come alive graphically.”

M: “Media literacy. It’s important to understand all facets of the media, from traditional media to our social media.”

That does it for this week’s installment. What non-writing skills or traits do you think are necessary for public relations? What are your personal experiences? Let us know what you think!

The topic for our next installment will be the differences between goals, strategies and tactics in public relations! If you have any questions for David and Marilyn you can leave them in the comments below, tweet at us (@shank_pr #TPO) or stop by our Facebook page. If you found this helpful, make sure to share it with your friends and spread the knowledge!

Rick Teitloff is our summer 2013 intern. Rick is a senior at Ball State University and will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public relations in December.

The Principals’ Office: Paid vs Unpaid Internships


Rick Teitloff, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

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Like much of my youth, when I needed to be taught a lesson (which was more often than I cared for) I got sent to the principal’s office. I guess a whole lot hasn’t changed in the past 20 years. In this series I sit down with David and Marilyn Shank – the principals of Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc. – and ask them questions about public relations.

In this edition we discuss paid vs unpaid internships. With our internship application deadline coming up (it’s Monday!) it only seems fitting that we let you know where we stand on the issue.

Rick (R): Do you think unpaid internships are acceptable or ethical?

David (D): “This is a complicated issue. The terms paid and unpaid can mean different things. Some internships pay students through experience and genuine learning as opposed to monetary compensation. If an intern is unpaid, the internship must still be beneficial to the intern. For some not-for-profit companies it is a completely different story. But unpaid internships just aren’t for our company.”

R: Do you think this issue should be addressed by the PRSA or the U.S. Government?

D: “Both the PRSA and the Department of Labor have addressed this issue and have stipulations that must be met by the employer’s internship program to have unpaid interns. So I think that we currently have a fair system as long as the rules are being followed.” – Check it out here!

M: “Beyond the duration of the internship, some laws should be looked at. One that affects small businesses is state unemployment laws. Indiana should take a look at that one. But as far as the internship itself, I think the current rules are enough.”

R: Do you foresee a change in legal policy?

D: “It’s supply and demand. With the current system there are plenty of unpaid interns. As long as companies can do it, they will. And as long as students accept unpaid internships they will continue. I don’t see any changes in the near future.”

M: “I agree with David. I think it will be market driven. We won’t have any changes until we are forced to.”

R: Why do you pay your interns when you don’t have to?

M: “It’s the ethical thing to do. It also allows us to keep everyone in the race. The most talented intern candidates are most likely going to want a paid internship. There are also students who are putting themselves through college and can’t afford to take an unpaid internship. So it really opens up the door for the talent.”

D: “We have a responsibility to help students. We don’t want working here to be a hardship for our interns. Interns walk away from Shank Public Relations Counselors with professional experience and some money in their pockets. Studies also show that paid interns go on to have more job offers and higher starting salaries. An internship is not a one way street. We learn from our interns just as they learn from us. So getting those top candidates is truly important to us.”

R: Do you think paying interns affects their quality of work?

M: “Not really. It may keep interns a little more motivated, and if nothing else it encourages them to submit their time sheets on time!”

D: “I don’t think so. And it absolutely shouldn’t. The quality of work starts in the interview process. We carefully select who we put through that process and only choose quality candidates. So paid or unpaid, we would get quality interns.”

That does it for this week’s installment. What are your thoughts on paid vs unpaid internships? What are your personal experiences? Let us know what you think!

The topic for our next installment will be non-writing skills that are essential for public relations! If you have any questions for David and Marilyn you can leave them in the comments below, tweet at us (@shank_pr) or stop by our Facebook page. If you found this helpful, make sure to share it with your friends and spread the knowledge!

Rick Teitloff is our summer 2013 intern. Rick is a senior at Ball State University and will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public relations in December.

The Principals’ Office: Crisis Communications and Management


Rick Teitloff, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

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Welcome to the inaugural post of our new, regular blog series, The Principals’ Office! Like much of my youth, when I needed to be taught a lesson (which was more often than I cared for) I got sent to the principal’s office. I guess a whole lot hasn’t changed in the past 20 years. In this series I sit down with David and Marilyn Shank – the principals of Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc. – and ask them questions about public relations.

For our first edition we decided to discuss crisis communications! This is an area where public relations professionals can prove to be invaluable to a company. It is also an area that Shank Public Relations Counselors has extensive experience and knowledge.

Rick (R): How important is crisis communications and management and why?

David (D): “Crisis communication and management is critical. A crisis happening is not a matter of if, but when! And when that crisis comes, you better be prepared. I can’t emphasize enough how important crisis management and communication is.”

Marilyn (M): “I agree completely. The way a company manages or mismanages a crisis can end up costing millions of dollars or the entire company itself!”

R: Should all companies have a crisis plan template?

D: “Each company should have a crisis plan, but not a template. Each crisis is different and there is no cookie-cutter template that is a fix-all.”

M: “Companies shouldn’t have a template, but a plan to help guide them through the process. Companies should also always have a back up; a plan a, b and c.”

R: Should companies try to go it alone or bring in professionals?

M: “If a company has a capable staff of their own and a plan, then they could possibly handle it on their own. But if they don’t have staff with experience in crisis management then they certainly need to bring in professional help.”

D: “And even if a company does have internal staff, bringing in a consultant will bring a different, sometimes more objective, perspective. This can be especially helpful in emotionally charged crises, such as incidents involving human casualties or injuries.”

R: What’s the most important thing to do in crisis communications?

D: “Get the facts right as you have them while being immediate as possible. Don’t speculate, don’t BS, stick to the facts.”

M: “You have to be available and you have to state the facts.”

R: What’s the most important thing to avoid?

M: “You can’t hide. You have to make yourself available and manage the crisis. Also, never, under any circumstances, put things ahead of people. If there are casualties in the crisis, the people don’t want to know that you will be back to work tomorrow. Empathize with those who have lost loved ones and leave it at that.”

D: “Never speculate! If you have an explosion in your factory and you know people are injured, don’t say ‘we have around 45 injured workers.’ Stick to what you know, ‘we have workers who were injured in the explosion. We’re not certain how many, but we will let you know when we have that information.’”

R: Is “no comment” ever acceptable?

D&M (simultaneously): “No!”

D: “Absolutely not. Not only is it bad practice, but studies have shown that saying ‘no comment’ causes people to assume guilt. You can use different terminology to get your point across and be credible.”

R: How important is internal communication in a crisis plan?

D: “Internal communication is extremely important in a crisis. Unfortunately, it is often left out of crisis plans by companies. Good plans include how information will be disseminated from the top down or the bottom to the top. Everyone from the CEO to the stockholders, investors and employees.”

M: “Having internal communications in the crisis plan ensures that everybody knows what the protocol is as far as the lines of communication are concerned.”

R: What is the timeline for responding to a crisis now?

D: “The timeline has drastically changed. It used to be the 24 hour ‘golden window’ to respond to a crisis. Now it’s more like 24 seconds! As the crisis is happening witnesses are taking pictures and video, uploading them to social media and sending them to media outlets. How crises are handled in today’s digital world is a topic all of its own (hint).”

That wraps up our first edition of The Principals’ Office. What do you think of the new concept? Did we pull it off? What do you want to see on this blog? Let us know!

The topic for our next installment will be the hot topic of paid vs. unpaid internships! If you have any questions for David and Marilyn you can leave them in the comments below, tweet at us (@shank_pr) or stop by our Facebook page. If you found this helpful, make sure to share it with your friends and spread the knowledge!

Rick Teitloff is our summer 2013 intern. Rick is a senior at Ball State University and will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public relations in December.

The NBA Classroom for Public Relations


Rick Teitloff, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

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Last night I felt the air being sucked out of Indianapolis as the Miami Heat put a beat down on the Indianapolis Pacers to the tune of 99-76 in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. The city was noticeably quieter. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with optimistic messages like, “until next season Pacers. Proud of you!”

 Even in losing, the rebuilt Pacers provided some great lessons for public relations.

1. Even the best of us can make big mistakes – own up to them and move on    

Roy Hibbert is a young up-and-comer in the NBA. He also made the biggest headlines after game six by using a gay slur and profanity at the post-game press conference. He even taunted the League with an, “I don’t care if I get fined.” And fine him they did. This mistake cost him $75,000. That’s a decent chunk of change even for someone who made $13.67 million this year.

To his credit, Hibbert owned up to his mistake. The following day he issued a statement apologizing for his inflammatory remarks and reached out to former NBA center Jason Collins via Twitter. Collins is the first male to come out as gay in a major US sport.

Lesson to take away: Chances are that at some point in your career you’re going to make a mistake. In public relations our mistakes are often seen by many people – one bad comment can go a long way. The important thing is how you respond to those mistakes. The best way to handle them is, like Hibbert, to admit your fault, sincerely apologize and put that sincerity into action.

2. You can put together a great campaign and not get the desired results – learn from it!

The Pacers exceeded expectations this season. If you asked people at the beginning of the season if the Pacers would be in the Eastern Conference Finals, most people would have laughed.

But the Pacers found their stride and played well. Better than expected. They knew they were good and their goal was an NBA championship. They put together a beautiful campaign, but they didn’t attain that ultimate goal.

There are positive takeaways. They and the coach had a plan. The Pacers took huge steps in the right direction. After the game, analysts weren’t talking about how bad they got beat, they were talking about how bright the future is for the young team.

Lesson to take away: There will be times when you do some seriously great work that will not immediately get the desired end result. In public relations you can put together a marvelous community relations program and still lose the vote or have a great pitch to an important potential client and not get the account. The key to these situations is to learn from them. Look at what you did right. Examine where you can improve. Then look forward and apply these lessons to your future work.

3. Leadership and development is key

The Pacers entered this season as a young and inexperienced team. Enter Coach Frank Vogel. In only his third year as head coach, Vogel had these Pacers playing sound, fundamental basketball. He took the team back to the basics: defense and rebounding.

After mastering the fundamentals, Vogel allowed his more talented players to shine. He let Paul George loose in the NBA Playoffs, which took the play of the Pacers to another level and allowed them to make it to game seven of the conference finals.

Lesson to take away: I compare this Pacers team to the vast number of young public relations professionals and interns. We are a talented pool of people. We no doubt have the jobs we do because we have talent. But without leadership and development, those talents can go to waste. Here’s my gameplan:

  • Be curious, pick the brains of the people at your workplace and ask questions.
  • If you finish a project ask for more work – there’s always more work!
  • Ask to sit in on meetings.
  • Seek out knowledge, do research about the profession and learn even when you’re not at work or in class.

In my high school weight room we had a great motivational phrase written on the wall; “hard work beats talent that doesn’t work hard.” Plain and simple: listen, learn, work hard, succeed!

Want to be our fall intern? Here’s what you need to know


Rick Teitloff, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

Even though I just started my tenure here as the summer intern at Shank Public Relations Counselors, we’re already on the lookout for our fall 2013 intern. For a full run-down of the objectives, job description and tips, visit our website. Here is the elevator speech:

Goals and objectives

  • to make the internship a learning experience by working with each person in the firm
  • to work on projects for both non-profit and corporate clients
  • to work on at least one project from beginning to end
  • to develop a professional portfolio

Intern job description

  • this is a paid internship
  • the intern will work 22-40 hours per week depending on class schedule
  • work closely with public relations professionals and complete work assigned to them by one supervisor
  • Be prepared to work

 Cover letter

Your cover letter is your first impression to a company. The cover letter needs to represent you. Be personable and honest. Personalize each cover letter you write; “to whom it may concern” is not an acceptable greeting! Put some effort into your application process and do some research about the company. I’ll even do you a solid- your contact here will be David L. Shank, president and CEO. Tell us why you want to intern here, why you would be a valuable asset and most importantly, back it up with examples. This is your time to shine! Lastly, always include when you’re going to follow up with a call…then actually do so.

Resume and work samples

  • include basic information such as your college education and related work experience
  • include real world experience, from extracurricular to writing for your campus paper or media
  • include relevant skills and a statement about references and a portfolio being available upon request
  • three work samples are requested…that means three!  But don’t include your 60 page term paper – keep the samples short and meaningful.

The deadline for submission of your cover letter, resume and work samples is July 1, 2013. Materials are to be emailed to dshank@shankpr.com. The start date for the internship is the beginning of your fall semester.

Even though the deadline is July 1, it is my personal advice to get on the horse and apply as soon as possible. You may not be the first applicant *hint hint!*. Good luck to all of the applicants!