Aspiring Activists Learn Public Relations Techniques

June 29, 2012 | By Danielle Saul

Earlier this week, more than 30 students attended the Leadership Institute’s Public Relations School where they learned branding, mass communications, media relations, one-on-one communication, and pitching.

Advantage, Inc. Vice President of Operations Jim Eltringham kicked off the training by teaching message development and hammered home the importance of emotion in crafting messages.  

“There has to be emotion,” Jim said.  “It has to tug on your heart strings. You don’t win elections on ideas and politics alone.”

He emphasized the need for politicians to identify with the voters: “People don’t want labels. They want leaders. They want solutions. The audience wants to know what you are going to do to solve their problems.”

Leadership Institute Director of Digital Communications Abby Alger spoke about how to promote messages through social media.

 “We expect people to be relatable and real,” she said.

Scott Hogenson, senior vice president for Dezenhall Resources, began the second night of training with a lecture on public relation strategies.

“The world of journalism is changing, and it is changing fast,” Scott told attendees.

He emphasized the importance of learning how to handle negative information correctly. If you can’t get around releasing the negative information, then you need to make sure you have a plan ready and in place.

Lindsey Mask, founder of Ladies America & Ladies International, closed the second night off by telling attendees her personal experience with branding an organization.

Lindsey expressed that being passionate about your job and the work you do is the key to success. In addition, there is also a strong need for focus. She encouraged the students to write down their biographies and reflect on their goals.

“Know thyself,” Lindsey encouraged attendees. “Accept your strengths and weaknesses.”

Leading the final night of the school, Mark Pfeifle, communication and outreach strategist with S4 Inc., spoke on crisis management.

Mark taught how to deal with crises in a live-action role play where students were divided into two groups, Democratic leaders versus Republican leaders, and had to craft messages for their side assuming Obamacare was ruled unconstitutional.

David Daum, who portrayed Speaker of the House John Boehner, found this activity very insightful.

“By competing and acting out the crisis strategy of President Obama and Mitt Romney, I felt like I had privileged insight into the minds of their respective public relations teams,” He explained.

Garrett Kamp, acting as President Obama, also found value in the activity. “By role-playing as the president, I learned not only how to manage a crisis, but I learned how to predict and respond to my opponent’s behavior.”

The final speaker, Ian Ivey, senior management advisor at the General Services Administration, taught about one-on-one communication styles.

After having the class figure out their own personality style, he had the students partner up and analyze each other’s personality style.  He then compared the different communication methods used within each group, and taught attendees how to relate to people who are completely opposite.

Many students enjoyed this activity and felt their future interactions would greatly benefit from learning these communication techniques. Summer intern for Susan B. Anthony List Santina Scarcella said, “Now I realize there are ways to approach people and I feel more comfortable doing so.”

LI’s next Public Relations School will be held September 24-26. Go here to register.