Some of you who see this blog may wonder how I keep my PR skills sharp, since I am currently a staff writer at a magazine. I utilize an exercise that I learned from my favorite communications professor at PLU. It involves taking a story that is written in one format and rewriting it in two other formats. Since I graduated I have continued to use this exercise as a way to keep my skills sharp for when I enter the PR industry. For this exercise I take a newspaper story written about something in one of the fields I am interested in and turn it into a press release, a media alert and a broadcast story. Each requires a different voice and a slightly different style, and I feel like they help me keep my skills honed.
For example, one press release I wrote was about Busch Gardens selling off its theme park holdings to private equity firm Blackstone Group. I then took it and turned it into a media alert about a customer appreciation day that Blackstone Group would host at all its newly acquired parks. Then there was the broadcast story, which came at the story from the same angle as the press release but in a much shorter fashion. It is always a challenge to take a story and get all of the pertinent points into a condensed version, but it is a challenge I welcome and enjoy. I think it also comes full circle because there are so many other areas where short and to the point is a necessity (Facebook status updates, Twitter updates, etc.). Perhaps in the future I will post some examples, although they may run a bit long for a blog, but for now you have been given a glimpse into how I keep my skills in shape.
I was a child of the 90′s. Television commercials were especially interesting to me, and that is saying a lot because I hardly sat still. The ones I found to be the most creative, and the ones that drew the most attention from me, were ones for the industries in which I am interested in today within the field of public relations: retail/consumer, food/beverage and travel/tourism. Notable examples, or ones that captivated me, included a commercial for the Lloyd Center, one for McDonalds, and one for Disneyland. These commercials had a significant impact and influence on me and my current interests in the field.
The Lloyd Center one was a commercial they showed around Christmas time, because I distinctly remembered seeing the spokesperson in a Santa hat. More importantly, what sticks with me today is the jingle. “In the center of the city, in the center of it all, Lloyd Center’s got it all.” Then there was the commercial for McDonalds that introduced the Barbie and Hot Wheels toys as the new Happy Meal toys. It featured Ronald McDonald and Hamburglar, and its plot centered around Hamburglar trying to steal cheeseburgers from Ronald. Another one I remember is the Disneyland commercial for the new Indiana Jones ride, because it came out right around the time I went to Disneyland for the very first time. Similar to my 7th grade communications commercial project, these commercials are memorable. They are ones that I reflect on as part of my inspiration to become part of the communications industry.
Last week I shared some of what is behind my current passions. The flip side of how I discovered this career path has to do with a 7th grade communications class assignment. At first most of the syllabus made the class sound like it was going to be boring. However, the class turned out to be one of my favorites and one of the assignments in particular caught my attention. Our teacher’s project was for us to create our own commercials working with a group of classmates. These commercials were going to be shown at a school assembly, so this project was a big deal. Our teacher was so jazzed about the assignment, and you could tell it was his favorite because he had saved videotapes full of student commercials from several previous years that he shared when introducing the project. His excitement was infectious.
I remember being in awe that we were really going to be allowed to create our own. It seemed like an awesome privilege and it was even more fun because it could be about anything real or imagined. My group made up some kind of energy or soda drink, designed the story board, choreographed and videotaped the whole thing. Before this assignment I did not realize that people like myself were in charge of creating these commercials and this became an attractive career option for me. When I got placed in a communications class for my freshman seminar class in college I loved it, and I knew why, it had all started with my 7th grade class and our commercial assignment.
I am a writer. At the core, it has always come back to writing. Take, for instance, my passions for journalism and public relations. Both of them stem from my passion for writing. I love arranging and rearranging sentences to produce that perfect paragraph. When my thoughts produce the perfect adjectives to convey my message, while persuading and enticing its readers, it sends a chill down my spine and endorphins rushing through my head. This has translated into the same excitement I get when writing a great lead for a press release and composing the perfect caption or persuasive snippet for an editorial article or section in a magazine.
My love of writing is intertwined with my lifelong status as an avid reader whose reading interests run the gamut from Nicholas Sparks to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. As a child I fell in love with words, particularly adjectives, in our elementary school’s Wordly Wise program. Basically, Wordly Wise is a vocabulary program geared towards gifted readers. This program jump started a never-ending interest in words for me. It produced a strong foundation, coupled with words learned via my own reading and class reading, that when built upon by internships and my beginning career experiences catapulted my writing and writing style to new levels. Without my interest in words and reading, my writing would not be what it is and I would not be able to call myself a writer. This background makes up the core of what I am in a professional sense, and because of it I am a writer.