Otterbein PRSSA presents a fresh new theme with an important lesson

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By: Lindsey Hobbs
PRSA Professional Adviser, Online Marketing Strategist for Champion Real Estate Services
Heading back to my alma mater to library room 124, I was so happy to walk through that familiar door to a full house at an Otterbein PRSSA meeting. Granted, there was free pizza involved, but I knew that more went into this attendance than just Donatos.

This semester, the executive board of Otterbein PRSSA has designated a theme of consumer and lifestyle public relations. This is such a fresh idea for the organization, and I should know because I ran it not that many years ago. I was very impressed at the executive board’s out of the box thinking and not going for a typical agency/corporate/nonprofit curriculum for the year. Especially because the lessons that the day’s speaker, Tom Santor, executive director of brand marketing for Donatos pizza, were so applicable to the true fundamentals of public relations.

Santor talked about his experiences with placing news stories for the newest line of bacon pizzas and giving reporters what they need to help them turn around a story in the short amount of time they usually have. He talked about handling the crisis of a rogue employee on the show “Undercover Boss.” He talked about the process of research and development to get consumers to fall in love with a new type of pizza. These were great examples of some day-to-day functions of someone in the public relations profession, and I think it helped make things a little more concrete than most ideas that I remember having as a freshman and a sophomore in the major.

I look forward to seeing how Angela Sedivy, the Polaris Fashion Place’s marketing director, built upon the lessons that Santor presented. Speakers for the semester with this theme will hopefully highlight one important fact of public relations: and that is how customer service oriented it really is.

This fact was one that I did not realize until my final semester of college when I was working in the communications department for the Ohio Department of Transportation. We were doing public relations, there is no doubt about that, but we were achieving that public relations by being the communicator to the general public and making sure that their questions and concerns were always addressed. This was when I realized that brand and message control often goes hand-in-hand with customer service.

Even now, as I do online marketing for the real estate industry, I have to keep the customers in mind to achieve our ultimate goal of defining a brand. I do social media, but you know what a brand’s social media accounts are really for? Connecting with the customer. I write ad copy, but you know who I am really writing it for? The customer looking for an apartment who just needs good information, fast. I do website analytics, but you know what I am really looking for in that data? Things that need improved, so that our customers can use the site more efficiently and effectively.

Whether your brand is dealing with the general public like Donatos or the Polaris Fashion Place or it is B2B and you have a roster of clients, you are in the customer service industry just as much as you are in the communication industry. That is why we communicators are so important, after all.

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Thank you for writing for our blog, Lindsey!
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