Monday, November 12, 2007

Kudos to NBC Universal’s Green Week

A recent post of mine revealed my skepticism about companies' commitment to social responsibility, especially those that claim to be "green." As I was perusing the PR Week website, I stumbled upon a recent article about NBC Universal's launch of Green Week, a week filled with green-themed programming that will "make NBCU the leading green media company," according to Lauren Zalaznick, coordinator of the campaign.

I read the article hoping the campaign was genuine and not a sly attempt to increase viewership. Then, I realized I was being entirely too pessimistic. Companies HAVE to make money to succeed, and if they can implement campaigns that will benefit some aspect of society, then I'm okay with it, no matter what their true intentions may be.

By incorporating all aspects of the company, NBCU capitalized on the green trend while educating both employees and viewers about the importance of sustainability and conservation. I especially liked the Green is Universal website that the company launched concurrently with the television programming.

Sure, Zalaznick admits that NBCU is trying to achieve an increase in advertising revenue and improve ratings, but I don't think that's necessarily a negative take on the Green is Universal campaign. The company seems to be actively engaged in the movement, as shown in its preliminary research that surveyed 16,000 employees on their environmental attitudes. A follow-up survey will also be conducted. This will show how effective the campaign was, and will demonstrate that NBCU improved its brand reputation and bottom line while committing to a significant cause.

So after a lot of deliberation, I decided I support the social responsibility craze that's consuming the corporate world. I hope more companies continue to advocate for these causes, as long as they remain committed long after the trend has faded from the headlines.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Go Green. Everybody’s Doing It.

My favorite color is green, so imagine my excitement when I discovered that green is SO the new black. If you aren't green, then you will not be sitting with the popular kids in the cafeteria.

Green's in. It's the new "it" thing in the business world. But just how genuine is this overwhelming crusade to conserve the environment? Are organizations really that concerned with preservation, or is it just a ploy to reach out to customers who are actively demanding a more socially responsible corporate America?

I'm not so sure, and there are others who agree with me.

In his blog "It's Not Easy… Being Green", Steve Crescenzo expresses the same wary sentiments about the green trend that I have. He pinpoints major hotel chains and how they use "going green" as a means to save themselves money while improving customer relations. After reading his blog, I had to admit that a little piece of my optimistic side shriveled up and wilted.

I want companies to be socially responsible, but I only want them to claim being so if they truly mean it.

Perhaps I'm dreaming of a utopian corporate culture where CEOs volunteer on Saturday mornings with the charities they choose to support, but I can't help thinking of corporations like General Mills that actively strive to be more environment-friendly. The numerous changes it has taken to minimize negative effects on the environment should be inspirational to other companies. General Mills goes beyond writing checks—it leads by example.

I love that our society is growing more concerned with giving back, and I hope that going green is more than an ephemeral fad and another way to increase the bottom line

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Pay It Forward Mentality

Like most of my peers, I’m terrified of graduating. As students, we have this pessimistic notion that we’ll never find jobs after graduation, and to curb these fears we take on as much as we can to enhance our resumes and build portfolios. But as we go from our internships to classes to PRSSA meetings to the library, I think we lose sight of the best way to get through the doors of corporate America—developing relationships with those already in the field.

Chuck Hester’s recent post presents the ten steps to the Pay-It-Forward philosophy, which encourages students and professionals to help others, not themselves. I am a huge proponent of this philosophy, especially among students.

PR students are bright. We’re intelligent, ambitious, and determined—we set goals, and we will do anything to achieve them. Unfortunately, because we are all struggling to set ourselves apart, we lose sight of how to really get ahead in the profession.

It’s actually pretty simple: network and make connections, but do it for the right reasons.

Hester encourages us to enter business relationships “without an agenda.” I thought this was common sense, but I realized I was wrong when I attended the 2007 PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia two weeks ago. Every workshop featured countless students standing up and repeating the same monotonous statement: Hi, my name is _______ from the University of _________. I’ve had seven internships and have an extensive portfolio. Even though I love my current internship, I am really interested in your field. How does your company hire people?

How do interactions like these benefit anyone, especially in a workshop with hundreds of other students equally as interested in the speaker’s line of work? The workshops would have been much more beneficial if students asked specific questions about the industry, or tried to find out more about the actual subject matter rather than trying to get an interview.

After leaving Philadelphia, members of my PRSSA chapter talked about how the conference swarmed with self-promoting students who were focused on finding their future jobs, not learning about public relations. I walked out of many workshops feeling disgruntled, not enlightened. I wanted to know the ins and outs of PR in the sports industry, or how to develop a creative political campaign using YouTube—not how many internships the person next to me had.

Yes, self-promotion is important in an industry as competitive as PR, but it should be done subtly. Like Hester said, the best connections are made when they are mutually beneficial. Show interest in an organization and strive to give something back to that group. This will bring more attention to you than listing off your resume as soon as you meet someone. Not all connections bring about immediate results, but a positive relationship has been started. You never know where that relationship will lead you.

What can social media do for you?

Social media. Web 2.0. Viral age. These are the buzzwords being tossed around in the communications field, and they aren’t going away any time soon. But what does this surge of social media mean for students? Will our technology-driven generation have the upper hand in the cutthroat job search post-graduation? Maybe-- if we learn how to use these tools to our advantage.

Out of all the college students I know, I can only think of one person who does not have either a Facebook or MySpace account. We obviously know how to use these networking sites, but do we use them effectively? I’m not so sure.

Several months ago I deleted my MySpace account. I figured it was just another tool employers would use to judge me during the hiring process, and I didn’t want anything diminishing my chances of getting a job. After reading about the dramatic effect social media is having on society, I decided to create a new account on MySpace so that I could stay up-to-date with the constantly changing online culture.

Only this time, I’m being much smarter about the content I include on MySpace.

The layout isn’t cluttered with flashing icons, and no obnoxious song plays every time someone tunes into my page. My site is free of embarrassing photos or lewd comments. Instead, my “About me” section is a short, witty description of myself that will show I know how to use social media without reflecting a negative image. I plan on uploading photos from national conferences that I’ve attended, events I’ve helped plan, and study abroad trips. Eventually, my profile will become a virtual portfolio, one that I will be happy to share with employers to showcase my knowledge of new technology.

It’s a coincidence that I decided to makeover my online image recently. Up until two days ago, I thought college students dominated the social networking world. Apparently this is not the case. A research study about Facebook states that the site is projected to have 60 million active users by the end of this year. 75% will not be college students. Is Facebook going to be considered a professional networking tool? It looks like this is going to be the next trend, especially in public relations.

So where does that leave us, the students? We joke about being addicted to these sites. We spend hours browsing our friends’ pictures and comments, but if we can utilize these tools to market ourselves, won't we be more competitive in the job search? Not only will we build a tangible brand, we will be engaging in the viral age, which will significantly benefit our future employers as these buzzwords continue to influence the business world.