This is Rick, your Summer 2013 intern!

Rick Teitloff, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

Hello friends of Shank Public Relations Counselors! I am the new intern in town, Rick Teitloff. I’m a senior at Ball State University majoring in public relations. I grew up in South Bend, Ind. (Go Irish!). My route from South Bend to Indianapolis has been a circuitous one. After high school I enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. Since returning home from the Navy I’ve attended three different colleges with my final landing place at Ball State because of its nationally acclaimed public relations program.

One requirement of BSU’s public relations program is an internship.  Since I started college late I’ve been taking classes full time during my summer semesters to graduate as fast as possible (which I’m doing in three years), leaving me this summer to complete my internship. That means that I had to make that one internship count. That’s where Shank Public Relations Counselors came in.

I was initially introduced to Shank Public Relations Counselors through one of the litany of emails our internship coordinator sends out from companies seeking interns. The email was informative and most importantly, stated that the internship was paid. That was enough to get me to look more into the company.

During my interview with David Shank, the company president, I got a really good feel for the vibe of the company and, of course, was shown their case of awards that is wider and taller than me.

There were many reasons why I chose Shank Public Relations Counselors. Most of all I could tell David was sincere and meant it when he told me I would be doing meaningful work and not be an extra set of hands to deal with small things they didn’t feel like doing. Being a smaller company, I knew I’d get a lot of hands-on experience being an integral part of the team, from planning to writing to meeting with clients. I truly believed that Shank Public Relations Counselors gave me the best opportunity to get the most out of my summer.

As you can tell, I have high expectations for my time at Shank Public Relations Counselors. I expect to be given challenging, meaningful work that will make me a better professional. I expect to learn different aspects of public relations, everything from the initial planning stages all the way to the implementation of the final strategy.

One of my biggest expectations is to learn interactions with clients. We can learn how to write and plan strategies in the classroom, but nothing can substitute true interactions with clients. How does the dialogue go? Where do you draw the line when you can tell that it’s not going to work with a client? How do you handle a call from a client about a crisis? I expect to learn how to handle situations like that. And I expect to give my portfolio quite a boost to make me a desirable asset when I enter the job market in December.

So far Shank has lived up to my expectations. After I got comfortable with the office on day one I was given assignments. Day two I was on-site at 7:15 a.m. corralling the local ROTC Color Guard at a Walmart store grand reopening.

In my first full week, the assignments have been constant and educational. I was just assigned a full assignment all to my own, which I was thrilled about. Most of all, working here so far has reaffirmed my choice in choosing public relations as a major and career path. Doing “real” work as opposed to hypothetical school work makes a huge difference. The work is much more fulfilling and exciting. So far so good and I’m looking forward to the next nine weeks here!


Facebook still the future of social media

Becca Grober, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

An interesting infographic created by illustrates the changing trends in Facebook usage. Actual time spent on the site is decreasing among the younger population. The infographic attributes this break to users being too busy, a lack of interest and other reasons. I found the infographic and short article on

When I read posts as this, I scroll to the bottom and checkout the comments. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a strange obsession with this, and this time I noticed something interesting.

A new large trend: everyone commenting about Facebook touts it for personal use but not professional use. A few of the comments read like this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 1.45.00 PM

How do we enter back into professional usage with users like this?

Today, we need to think of different ways to reach our audiences. Facebook started as a way to get dates. It transitioned into a medium used to praise yourself, and maybe your friends if you were feeling generous. For a short time, it transitioned into a platform promoting events, products and companies. Now we’ve circled back and professional pages seem to only use the medium for praising their employees or themselves.

Yes, attention spans are diminishing, but as professionals we’ve always risen to the challenge. Twitter came along and we conquered it. Instagram gave us a little more wiggle room. And now with social media as Tout and Vine we’re even more pressed for time.

What’s next? Revitalizing the great equalizer — Facebook. Facebook connects nearly every medium we use. We need to go back to promotion, but integrate with true communication. At the root of social media is social. Once we begin responding again we’ll understand it’s true capabilities.

Where does this social media consumption take place most? According to a blog posted by Chad Smith on Social Media Revolver for every 72 minutes of verbal chat, people use their phone for 94 minutes a day on other things, such as search and social media. Phones are much smaller than a computer or tablet. We need to condense our information for smaller consumption. Facebook already provides us with those capabilities and it continues to add the newest outlets to it’s list of apps.

My view of the future is continued convergence. For some of us social media is our only tool of communication, but it must be done right. It’s getting to an age where literature is abundant. Research, and learn how to intelligently use your media so that you don’t fall into the “what I ate for lunch today” trap.

For more opinions on the future of social media read Business 2 Community’s article, “The Future of Social Media: 50+ Experts Share Their 2013 Predictions.” The medium could go in any direction, but we hope you can decide your organization’s social future.

Why the *^!% Not Pay for News Placement?

David Shank, President/CEO, Shank Public Relations Counselors

For the past several days I’ve been reading and participating in a conversation on the LinkedIn Public Relations Professionals group.  The discussion started innocently, but incredulously enough, with this question: “Is it ethical for a public professional to pay to get a story placed?”  Since my professional history has been based on the PRSA Code of Ethics, my first thought – you have to be kidding, what a stupid question.

As the comments flowed like a Hoosier stream during spring rains, I was disturbed by many of the comments: “Sure, why not…our job is to get the story in” or “why not as long as it’s factual” or “it’s the medium’s job to make the ethical decision.”  The comments were countered occasionally by someone saying “if you pay for it it’s advertising and if you don’t it’s PR.”

Many brought a global viewpoint, pointing out differences in international practices, but essentially the message was mixed.

The PRSA Code of Ethics (, which few in the discussion acknowledged, is explicit – you don’t do it.

I was beginning to tire of the conversation, but it was so fascinating I couldn’t stop — sort of like watching a train wreck or “American Idol.” The comments emphasized getting the ‘story’ placed, but the emphasis should be on the end reader or viewer or listener — do they, will they, trust and believe the information they get?

Our product is not placements but credibility and transparency. If the story is paid, the reader will see through the honesty-scam and not believe it, not trust the news medium and eventually our clients or issue. The philosophy of getting ‘placed’ at any cost is short-sighted, demeans the process and will eventually backfire on the public relations professional, the client/issue and the news medium.

I don’t have a problem with paying for space as long as it’s amply labeled “advertorial.” One doesn’t have to look further in recent professional history than the Atlantic Monthly / Scientology debacle to see how this affects truth and credibility.

What do you think?

– David Shank

Public Relations 2013: What qualifies as unique?

Becca Grober, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

First off, I would like to introduce myself as the newest intern at Shank Public Relations Counselors. I’m Becca and I am a senior in my last semester at Ball State University. This is my fourth internship experience. I am an avid reader and like to pretend that I’m the next great chef.

While at Shank Public Relations Counselors my goal is to do something different with social media. Every Monday, we will pose a new question on Twitter and Facebook. We hope our followers, and others, will respond. On Wednesday, we will post our response on the Shank Public Relations Counselors blog. Friday, we will feature the most interesting answers. The goal is to start a conversation because after all, that’s what social media is all about.

Let’s start with something that I have been lectured about before at previous internships: the word “unique”. Unique is a word thrown around constantly. By definition, unique means to have no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable. It can’t be qualified.

So, are any of our ideas really unique? The answer is probably no. For a concept, idea or strategy to be unique, it must be one of a kind. Most likely what you plan to do has already been done before. That’s not to say that it’s not a great idea or it won’t be successful. All that it means is that it is not truly unique.

In public relations, our best brainstorming is done through research. Inspiration often comes from others’ work and strategy. Picking and choosing pieces of many plans is how we develop our own plans. Our inspiration comes from others. We choose what works best for our client and create a strategy for their needs. While sometimes our combination may be unique, the individual parts don’t quite fit the bill of “unique”…they’ve probably been done before in one form or another.

Imitation can be considered the greatest form of flattery. When utilizing other’s ideas for your own planning, you are telling them that you admire their work. You’ve seen something successful and think to yourself, “Could that work for me?” Not everything in one plan will work the same in another. We transfer ideas to create the perfect equation for our client.

In that rare instance you may run across something that is “unique”, think about this: If there truly is only one of that thing, or the idea has only been used once, then it might mean that it’s not very good. When something works, it catches like wildfire. Everyone wants to say that they were part of the first wave. So, if it didn’t catch, maybe it’s because it didn’t work.

Job hunting in an ocean of “unique”

As I begin my job hunt I find the word “unique” around nearly every corner. Whether it’s employers looking for “unique” candidates or potential employees boasting about how “unique” they are, you can’t quite run away from the word.

If you are a potential employee utilizing the word “unique” or even the phrase “new ideas” in your cover letter, think twice. What new or unique ideas can you truly bring to the table? You’re presenting yourself to an organization that has most likely been around for a while. Have you thought of something they haven’t thought of or done yet? It is possible, but present your idea in a positive way. Think of it as something supplementary and not brand new.

On the other end of the spectrum are those employers who attempt to find the only unique job candidate to ever exist. The focus is lost in translation. An employer should look for individuals with skills and ability. The candidate should have knowledge of the industry and skills to match. The hope is to find someone who stands out, but is a good fit for the organization.

So what does this mean for the often misused, descriptive word? That’s up to you. I suggest we eliminate the word in public relations. Brainstorm with your employees. What exactly is your brand? How do you describe the company? How would others describe you? That’s how you should sell yourself as an organization. In the end though, you as the professional have to make the choice for yourself:

The question is not all that unique. What are your thoughts?

I bid you farewell

This week represents an extremely exciting, yet sad time for me. Not only is my internship with Shank Public Relations Counselors coming to an end, but so is my undergraduate career. Though I’m just days away from graduation, I still cannot believe all that I have been able to learn and accomplish through my internship and last few months at Ball State University.

Initially, I feared regretting my final semester of college due to all the responsibilities I piled onto my plate. From being president of an on-campus organization to carrying a full class load to working more than 20 hours a week for my internship, I thought that I would become burned out in a matter of weeks. Looking back, I am happy to say that I was wrong. Yes, there were times when this semester was the definition of chaos, but my experience was also more rewarding than I could have imagined.

The best word to describe my period with Shank Public Relations Counselors would be fulfilling. David and Marilyn have constantly made it a point to teach and encourage me to be a well-rounded, ethical professional by modeling the way. By observing their interactions with clients and business partners, it is clear that David and Marilyn care about and believe in all the projects with which they are involved.

They also truly care about the learning experience gained by their interns. Whether I had questions, needed advice or wanted to try a new project, David and Marilyn have always been receptive to and supportive of my ideas. They are open-minded and welcome interns to work on skills that they may lack experience in. My portfolio has grown tremendously with work in web design, research, copy writing, media relations, social media and special events! The best part is that I enjoyed working on each one of these assignments and found a lesson in each project. The most memorable lesson learned: Duct tape is the key to success for any event, but especially when assisting in a client presentation!

As a senior approaching graduation I am often asked, “Do you feel prepared?” Thanks to my internship, my kind professors, and my helpful bosses, I can honestly say yes. So bring it on, “real world”!

Not only is my resume better developed, but so is my understanding of what I would like to do with my career. After spending four months at a public relations firm, I know that this is the path I want to and will continue on. Beginning in January, I will be working with an Indianapolis public relations and advertising agency for a post-graduate internship!

Rebuilding the East Coast

The unbelievable devastation of Sandy, by now, has passed through the Eastern coastal area.  Traditionally as a public relations blog and posting I could spend hundreds of words about crisis management, company preparedness, and working with media and other constituents during a disaster but I’m not.  I want to give our best thoughts and prayers to all those affected by Sandy.

For many this astonishing force of nature was an image, something you watched with dread and fascination on CNN or the Weather Channel.  But when it becomes personal you become attached.  Each direction shift, each breach of a coastline, each flooding episode becomes real.  That was us Monday night.  It got real personal, really fast as our son and his family live in South Philly dead-on in the path, we have a terrific nephew in Boston, a terrific niece on the farthest north tip of Manhattan and cousins in New England.  Sandy was real to us, not a meteorological abstraction.  Our son and his family are fine, hunkered down and tweeting updates.  We saw reports from the other family members on Twitter and Facebook.

But now rebuilding begins. The reconstruction.  The dig out.

And unfortunately the creeps, the jerks and the crooks who take advantage of people’s innate desire to help others and scam those who want to assist will ooze out from under the flood-soaked rocks.

Wherever you are, there are credible, honest caring organizations which will make sure your contributions are well managed and will do real good.  The Huffington Post has a solid piece on relief efforts on this link:


Two global organizations you can be assured will help where the help is needed are the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Red Cross– HOW TO HELP Donations help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by disasters like Hurricane Sandy. To donate, people can visit, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Salvation Army.

Sandy is only the latest disaster and it won’t be the last.  Every community has its share of disasters and you can help, just make the effort, but with care and prudence.


Guest Blog by Brian Adams: “Calvin and Hobbes on…Crisis Communications”

Two weeks ago I spent the morning sifting through quotes from a favorite character of my childhood. The resulting blog post, Winnie the Pooh on…Social Media, was so much fun to create that I decided to take a look back on another publication that provided me with wisdom during my youth, Calvin and Hobbes.

It seems as if young Calvin was always in crisis mode while Hobbes fanned the flames to watch the meltdown. The mistakes of these two characters contain valuable lessons for anyone facing a media crisis. After all, can’t we all sympathize with a child that so succinctly states what we all think when a crisis occurs: “Reality continues to ruin my life.”

Here are a few more bits of crisis wisdom from author Bill Watterson:

On Ignoring the Crisis
“What state do you live in?”

On Setting Expectations
“To make a bad day worse, spend it wishing for the impossible.”

On Luck
“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.”

On Pity
“Its no use! Everybody gets good enemies except me.”

On Planning Ahead
“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.”
“What mood is that?”
“Last-minute panic.”

On Keeping Your Cool
“Life’s disappointments are harder to take when you don’t know any swear words.”

On Picking a Competent Spokesperson
“I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.”

On Knowing Your Facts
“As a math atheist, I should be excused from this.”

On Crafting Your Soundbite
“If something is so complicated that you can’t explain it in 10 seconds, then it’s probably not worth knowing anyway.”

“This one’s tricky. You have to use imaginary numbers, like eleventeen…”

On Offering a Scapegoat
“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?”

More On Offering a Scapegoat
“Nothing I do is my fault.”

On Owning Your Mistake
“Don’t walk away! I’m trying to apologize you dumb noodleloaf!”

More On Owning Your Mistake
“I love the culture of victimhood.”

On Quoted (Gloating) Competitors
“In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.”

On Elevating the Crisis
“A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day.”

On Cutting Your Losses
“Where do we keep all our chainsaws, Mom?”

On Keeping a Positive Perspective
“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine, and valleys of frustration and failure.”

On Recent Crises:

On Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women
“Girls are like slugs – they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to imagine what.”

More On Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women
“She didn’t even give me credit for my professional clear plastic binder!”

On the Gap’s “Manifest Destiny” T-Shirt
“How rude.”

On Google’s Early Release of Financials
“Another genius foiled by an incapable assistant.”

Original Source:

About Brian Adams: Brian Adams consults with nonprofits, including Komera Project (, regarding communications strategy. Brian was previously Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley ( and the head of Media and Community Relations for the MSPCA-Angell (  A version of this story first appeared on the author’s blog (

6 Do’s and Don’ts I learned about live-tweeting a candidate forum

For those of you who don’t know (and that shouldn’t be many of you) Twitter is not only used to monitor play-by-plays of your best friend’s week; it has also come in handy as a media source and is definitely playing a role in the 2012 elections.

To the surprise of some, the role of Twitter in politics does not just apply at the national level.  Local debates and forums gather attention as well, though it’s definitely not as excessive and may take a bit more effort.  Shank Public Relations Counselors enjoyed its own night of politics on Thursday, Oct 3 when we assisted in the coordination of the West Side Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.  By creating a hash tag (#WSForum12) specifically for the event, we anticipated and encouraged users to hop onto their social media profiles and join the conversation.

Lucky for me, my role in the night’s event was to live tweet on the @Shank_PR handle, which actually requires more brain power than you would think.  Yes, I use Twitter daily (maybe even hourly) for my own personal use, but live-tweeting an event is a whole new ball game. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts if you really want to engage your audience.


  • Utilize your hashtag: Create a memorable hashtag and don’t forget to use it! Not only will it help you reach users who want to engage in the conversation, but it also helps spectators follow the stream and stay connected.
  • Highlight diverse points: When live-tweeting a political event especially, it is essential to cover the points and candidates from all represented parties.  Make a conscious effort to quote people that you know are from different backgrounds and have opposing views.This way you’re sure to connect with a larger audience!
  • Keep the conversation afloat: Watch out for trending statements among audience members and then react to them. If a candidate makes a strong statement that triggered a lot of attention among audience members, don’t be hesitant to tweet about it and ask for the opinions of users. If it caused that much of a stir, you’ll want to tweet about it. Prime example: #bindersfullofwomen. That hashtag was trending for more than 24 hours after it was said.



  • Share personal opinions: remember that you are representing an organization or even your own firm when live-tweeting. Sharing an opinion that may be offensive or even contradictory to the views of your organization will only leave a bad taste in other people’s mouths. Not to mention, you won’t want to get in a cyber brawl over someone else’s Twitter handle.
  • Ignore your audience: This may seem obvious, but even tweeting a “thank you for sharing” or retweeting users will make a bit of a difference. Remember that you are live-tweeting to expand the event’s reach and to make connections. If you want to keep users engaged and excited, it is a MUST to interact with the audience.

Because the West Side Chamber of Commerce forum was the same night as the presidential debate (we scheduled first), I didn’t know how much attention our tweets would receive, however, we had good reach.  Just one tweet, which included a photo of two candidates interacting, received 6 retweets in a matter of 10 minutes! Some of those “retweeters” were candidates sitting on the stage.

Concentrated Twitter activity during large events has become common and is even more evident on a national level.  Just minutes after the West Side Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, Twitter blew up with 10.3 million tweets over a 90-minute period (highest Twitter activity in history) as a result of the presidential debate.  The same thing occurred on Tuesday during the second debate, though the numbers did decrease by about 3 million tweets.

Whether we like it or not, Twitter has become an influential factor in the 2012 local and national elections.  Not only do citizens use the site to share their own opinions, but candidates also utilize Twitter to voice their views and platforms.  Our presidential candidates have verified Twitter accounts, both of whom are active with their followers and that activity makes the difference.

It’s hard to deny the effect Twitter has made in educating younger voters on the issues surrounding the 2012 elections. Perhaps the recent increase in activity is a preview of how many young voters will be out on Nov 6.

Act Ethically and Carry On

Last month was PRSA’s Ethics Month and throughout the 30 days of September, the organization has hosted a series of awareness activities to enforce its importance.  Though public relations pros set aside a month to acknowledge ethics, it is essential for practitioners to recognize a code of moral standards all year long.

“Why?” you might ask.  Well, according to the PRSA Code of Ethics, “…our professional values are vital to the integrity of the profession as a whole.” As with any career there are boundaries and the reputation of your company can depend on your ability to act ethically when challenged with a dilemma. Though there are clients who feel that a public relations practitioner’s sole duty is to represent them in a positive light, practitioners have an obligation to their publics as well.  Plus, public relations firms have their own policies and rights—if the client will compromise the integrity of your firm, you can choose not to represent them.

In my short career as a public relations professional, I have already been exposed to many difficult decisions that have had to be made using an ethical standpoint—not in my own experience, but from observing the decisions of my own companies, as well as others.

Here are a couple issues that public relations firms frequently encounter:

  • Tobacco Companies: The decision on whether or not to represent a tobacco company cannot always be characterized as either black or white, ethical or unethical. While some firms find it unethical to promote a product that is dangerous to consumers (also stated in the Code), others believe that the decision to buy solely lies with the consumer.  Choices also become blurred when a tobacco company is represented under a large conglomerate that sells household and food items as well.  The decision lies with the professional, but it is commonly a difficult one to make.
  • Front Groups: Front groups are organizations that support a cause without revealing their financial supporters.  They are commonly found in politics to support a new legislation.  As the Code states: professionals should be open and honest with their publics.  For this reason, supporting or promoting front groups can put you or your organization in an ethical dilemma
  • Integrity of news media: As public relations professionals, we all understand the importance of publicity for our clients, however, that publicity should never be a result of a gift sent to a journalist.  From an ethical standpoint, it would be impossible for a client to measure the effectiveness of our work if we were always guaranteed a media slot due to bribery. Not to mention the importance of staying credible to clients and followers.

Personally, I believe that the Code is a helpful resource in handling tough decisions because it indirectly covers a multitude of situations.  Understanding and following it’s guidelines gives me a better understanding of what is expected of myself as a public relations professional, which in turn makes decision-making a much easier process.

As public relations professionals and members of PRSA, we are always in the public eye; rarely do our actions go unnoticed.  One definite way to maintain a credible reputation as a professional, as well as uphold the standards of the PR profession is to practice ethical decision-making.

While the industry may be ever changing, our love for ethical public relations will always stay the same. The most basic of public relations lesson remains “Act Ethically and Carry On.”

Do what you love and love what you do!

It’s your first day at your dream internship and besides drowning in a mixture of excitement and overwhelm, you can’t help but feel completely clueless. I know because just six weeks ago I felt the same concoction of fear, hope and confusion as I sat at my desk on the first day at Shank Public Relations Counselors.

The feeling does go away, I promise, however, your attitude for the duration of the semester is determined by your outlook. Don’t expect to gain respect and a fabulous recommendation if you aren’t willing to try hard and put in the necessary work. 

After a month at Shank Public Relations Counselors, I’ve learned that key to success is passion. If you want to make your internship the best and are having trouble developing a passion for your assignments, my suggestion is to treat it like your favorite hobby. If that means you’ll be comparing your internship to exercising, reading or even playing an instrument, then so be it! After all, you should enjoy your work!

With any hobby, and also in your internship, make sure you apply these three habits to reach your fullest potential:

  •  Practice, practice, practice: As with anything, if you want to further develop your skills, practice is the best solution. In an internship, you’ll be introduced to a ton of different projects and be asked to use programs that you may have never even heard of.  Don’t fear.  Stay calm and Google. Utilize your resources to learn that new skill or program, and then continue to experiment until you’ve mastered it. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the “Outliers,” professes that in order to be an expert at anything you must repeat it 10,000 times in your lifetime so it’s best to get started now!
  •  Network: You never hesitate to chat up people who share your other passions, so why not connect with those in your field of study?! Don’t be afraid to approach peers who are doing internships similar to yours and ask them about what they’ve got going on. You may even learn something you never knew before and could incorporate into your own internship.
  •  Keep it fresh: When you first develop a hobby, you start at a beginner’s level then move up to moderate and soon you’re on expert! As you become more skilled, you try new things to challenge yourself within your hobby. The same applies to your internship. Always try new things and ask for new projects.

So, it may take more work than riding a bike, but as long as you keep a positive attitude and open mind, your internship will be just as fun.