And for the Big Finale…Drumrole Please

It’s here.  The end of our semester-long campaign is upon us.  6+ Solutions recently met to discuss the order of our campaigns book.  It’s almost tangible now.  This daunting task (the campaign) was eaten like an elephant (one bite at a time).  Soon, GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship, Playmakers and four other local nonprofits will each be given a book filled with research, communication plans, collateral and business suggestions.  What they will do with this worthwhile information is beyond me.  However, I truly hope they take the suggestions and hard work each group has accumulated into account once we graduate.

Monday, April 23, 2012 was the third and final fundraising dinner put on for GaitWay by 6+ Solutions.  The dinner was held at Mestizo, a Louisiana-Mexican restaurant.  The owner of Mestizo offered 10 percent to any patron who let their server know they were with GaitWay.  The restaurant was surprisingly busy when my roommate and I went to eat, so hopefully a significant amount of money was raised for GaitWay.

I am proud of the work 6+ Solutions has created over the past few months.  Our team is made up of talented, intelligent and enthusiastic students.  Collectively, we’ve hit a few pot holes along the way, but through communication, we’ve been able to make amazing accomplishments.

Before this class began, I took a chance by signing up for the section of MC 4005 that had an unlisted staff member.  Ask any college student and they’ll tell you that an unlisted staff member is risky.  But as my Finance professor says, the bigger the risk, the bigger the potential reward.  I am sincerely grateful for having Dr. Jensen Moore as a professor.  Unlike some of the faculty I’ve encountered, Dr. Moore has been accessible to students who have questions and she responds to emails remarkably quick.  She has been supportive of 6+ Solutions, especially when we ran into rough patches in the campaign process.

What will become of this blog?  As mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve actually begun to enjoy using Twitter.  Similarly, I’ve learned I enjoy blogging. (Thank you for making it a part of our grade, Dr. Moore).  After graduation, I’d love to have the opportunity to blog for a company or nonprofit organization.  I’ve also thought about creating a personal blog that is not focused solely on my experiences with public relations.

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Social Media: Useful but Challenging for Nonprofits

Well folks, it’s almost here.  GaitWay’s first fundraising dinner is coming up quickly.   Next Wednesday, April 4, patrons who dine at Reginelli’s will be able to “Just say GaitWay” in order for the restaurant to donate 10 percent of the day’s profits to GatiWay.  6+ Solutions is excited about kicking off the fundraising restaurant crawl and we have begun to advertise using social media, both GaitWay’s Facebook page and our personal Facebook pages.  I have changed my Facebook default picture to the digital promotional piece Lance created so that my friends are able to see it without having to search through my tagged pictures.

Caitlin is currently in control of GaitWay’s Facebook and Twitter pages.  She is also tracking how many ‘likes’ Gaitway’s page acquires during the length of our campaign as well as how many followers the Twitter page procures.  It’s proving more difficult than I originally thought to rack up ‘likes’ and followers on these social media networks.  I often post links to both of GaitWay’s social media sites and I have even messaged my close friends requesting them to ‘like’ and follow GaitWay.

This got me thinking; why is it so hard to get people to like pages on Facebook?  Is it because they are inundated with too many messages already or are they occupied with looking at pictures or memes?  Americans are used to being surrounded by advertising messages, so is that what’s happening with social causes, too?  Are people too used to seeing links to nonprofits’ Facebook and Twitter pages?  Is the world overwhelmed by requests to be ‘good citizens?’  These are all questions young professionals and social media users should at least consider when promoting events on the Internet.

The following is what I consider a confession of sorts:  Twitter isn’t so bad.  There, I said it.  I used to be that student who despised Twitter, seeing it as a useless waste of time and often uttering comments such as, “Who cares if you just found a penny on the ground?”  Don’t get me wrong; I still think people tweet more often than they should.  I mean, who can keep up with every post that is published online.  Let’s take time to breathe, people!  I often wonder how the Twitter addicts have time to converse in the physical world, not the virtual world.  Though I am still not completely convinced, I am rapidly warming up to Twitter.

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What Do Surveys, Dinners and Privacy Have in Common? PR Campaigns.

“Do you have time to fill out a survey?”   I’d be willing to bet that’s a question most people have heard once or twice.  I am hoping GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship’s clients and donors will have time to fill out a survey I recently created for them.   The online survey that will be disseminated to GaitWay’s inner publics and should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.  The survey will provide 6+ Solutions with valuable information to add into our research report.  The survey will help gather data on topics ranging from social media usage to information gathering techniques.  Besides the standard demographic questions, I inserted two open-ended questions in order to probe the survey participants’ minds and hopefully obtain more fruitful answers.

My previous blog post mentioned that 6+ Solutions will be holding fundraising dinners to benefit our client, GaitWay.  The dinners will be spread out over a three week period and will be promoted in a variety of ways including social media and word-of-mouth.  Caitlin has been doing a wonderful job of keeping GaitWay’s Twitter and Facebook accounts updated with information about upcoming events as well as recapping events that have already transpired.  Our next event is a fundraising dinner at Reginelli’s just north of LSU’s campus, so keep an eye on GaitWay’s social media for dates, times and locations.

In my Media Ethics class, we discussed the topic of privacy and how privacy issues arise in all areas of mass communication.  Then I got to thinking (scary, I know): I have a duel function in this Public Relations Campaign class.  I am part of a public relations team that is putting together a campaign for a nonprofit.  I am also a novice blogger who records what is going on in my life.  The issue that arose in my mind was about where to draw the line of privacy.  What if something happens in our campaign or with our client that I want to include in a blog post?  Where is the line drawn between what can be included in blog posts and what is unacceptable to be broadcasted through a blog.  It’s an interesting dilemma.

In class, some version of the word “transparent” has undoubtedly been used 100 times.  That’s what PR students are taught; transparency works wonders for a client’s credibility.  But how transparent is sufficient?  Is it best to be crystal clear or would it be acceptable to be slightly cloudy?  That’s just another interesting question to think about.

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Cut the Ribbon, Let’s Talk Fundraising

6+ Solutions’s first event, the ribbon cutting for GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship‘s new location, is coming up very soon—as in next Wednesday, March 7, 2012.  Members of 6+ Solutions are feeling confident it will be a successful event.  The ribbon cutting will be catered by Lindsey’s friend, Ryan, who runs Bayou Boys Gourmet.  He will be cooking delicious seafood bisque and jambalaya for those who attend the event.  You can find Bayou Boys Gourmet on Facebook and their products at grocery stores around southeastern Louisiana.

Caitlin has created a Twitter account for our client.  If you ever want or need information regarding GaitWay’s happenings, I encourage you to follow them on their Twitter account.  6+ Solutions is ready to kick off a great social media campaign to garner general awareness and interest in an upcoming series of fundraising events for GaitWay.  6+ Solutions is currently working with restaurants in the Baton Rouge area to create a series of fundraising dinners to benefit GaitWay.

Our campaigns professor, Dr. Moore, suggested that our groups could put together a social media calendar for each of our clients.  6+ Solutions liked the idea so I searched the Internet for various months, weeks and days of observances that could be tied into the services provided by GaitWay.  The schedule, detailing March 2012 through February 2013, will be utilized by Caitlin, who is heading up the social media for our campaign.  Once our work with GaitWay is complete and we graduate, Shelley will be given the social media calendar so she has a guide of what to talk about on GaitWay’s Twitter and Facebook pages.  This tool is helpful to small nonprofits that lack staff members in the public relations field because it lays out good suggestions and starting points for the organization to utilize.

At 6+ Solutions’s weekly meeting, we discussed potentially using comment cards for our ribbon cutting and fundraising events.  We collectively decided that comment cards would serve as a simple way to collect information from clients and donors.  We will have comment cards tailored to both clients and donors.  The ribbon cutting will have comment cards directed toward clients of GaitWay.  We will also create comment cards for the fundraising dinners we are planning.  Those cards will give us information about how the donors heard about the fundraising events.  That will give us a way to evaluate how effective our various methods of disseminating information were.

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Deadlines—Get Used to ‘Em

It’s been drilled in our heads by professors at the Manship School of Mass Communication that deadlines are fixed dates, unwavering no matter the excuse.  For many of the mass communication classes I’ve taken at LSU, there is no option of turning in a paper, assignment or project late.  The goal of this is to get students used to deadlines.  Some call it tough love—I don’t.  In fact, I am thankful for the deadline preparedness they have instill in us.

There are deadlines in every stage of life.  Children have deadlines for science fair projects.  Potential college students have different application deadlines for different universities.  Current college students have financial aid deadlines.  A more fitting deadline for this time of year is the one facing the labor force—the dreaded tax deadline.

For me and my classmates, this semester is filled with deadlines (if you don’t believe me, take a look at my planner).  A recent deadline that I encountered was for 6+ Solutions’ client, GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship.  GaitWay’s director, Shelley Rose, requested that members of 6+ Solutions recreate a poster board for her to use at table sits and community events.  Even though Brittany and I had work, classes and homework, we took on the task.  After all, the field of public relations is prone to throwing tasks at you when you’re already busy, right?  I am actually really proud of what we came up with on short notice and Shelley seemed delighted to have a fresh, new poster at her disposal.

To continue the discussion of deadlines:  I was recently discussing my upcoming graduation with my mother.  I told her that graduation was less than 100 days away and she nearly fell out of her chair.  She couldn’t believe how quickly four years can pass you up.  Then it hit me…graduation is the ultimate deadline for a college student.  I have less than three months to meet all of my classes’ deadlines.  Graduation, a deadline in itself, is really the beginning of much more important deadlines.  For some graduates, graduation is when real deadlines begin—paying bills, filing tax returns, choosing insurance plans at work, etc.  I am grateful that the Manship School has prepared me for meeting deadlines.  I’m sure I’ll stress over deadlines every once in a while but I will be better prepared to handle them when they do occur.

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GaitWay to success in PR Campaigns

My campaigns group and I recently met our client for this semester, GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship.  My first thought was that the three women we met with possessed more energy than a classroom full of fifth graders after a holiday party.  Shelley Rose , Holly Hutchison and Carole Fredrickson were elated to have six students helping with the nonprofit they support.  The ladies came into the meeting with tons of ideas to guide our campaign planning process.  They, in turn, quickly learned that we were the type of students inclined to ask a plethora of questions.  I, for one, am certainly guilty of innocent interrogation, however, that’s part of my job description as the research director for my group.  One of the questions I asked pertained to which hippotherapy-providing organization should I speak with.  Shelley told me about an organization in McKinney, TX that is very similar to GaitWay, but is much larger and more established.  The organization is ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship and I will soon be in touch with them.

Our group got to see an issue of Special Parents, a magazine featuring stories and news for parents and guardians of children with special needs, where a young GaitWay rider was featured on the front cover.  I had yet to hear of this particular magazine until our meeting, so I searched the Internet to find the magazine’s website, keeping in mind they will be an important media contact for our group.

With a client, such as GaitWay, who provides specialized services, our campaign group must clearly understand what hippotherapy is, along with some technical terms.  I thought it would be useful to check out the American Hippotherapy Association’s website.  The AHA’s website is simple yet full of useful information about hippotherapy—from research articles to participant success stories.

From all the conversations and activities that went on yesterday, the one thought that sticks out in my mind is the question of where would one purchase oversized scissors and ribbon for a ribbon cutting ceremony?  Last summer, I completed an internship for Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. where I was able to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony.  I am usually very inquisitive, but somehow, I never questioned where you would find supplies for a ribbon cutting ceremony.  I was so interested in this topic that I took the liberty of looking it up on Amazon.com for other inquiring minds.

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