What’s in the KC Projects PR Toolbox?

We all need a little help when it comes to managing our time, projects, schedules and tasks. It takes a village to make things happen (and I’m not just talking about the incredible team at KC Projects)! I’m talking about the tools we use to help us stay organized and on track.

With so many apps and programs available today, how do you know which ones are the right fit for you? It can take plenty of testing and trial runs, but KC Projects has found several that we couldn’t live without. Check out a few of our favorite tools and let us know what you think.

Grammarly

When your marketing strategy involves content creation, a tool like Grammarly can go a long way. Grammarly works as you write to catch mistakes and suggest improvements. It does a great job with grammar and stylistic errors. Grammarly has a browser extension that fixes mistakes, whether you’re writing in Gmail, LinkedIn or WordPress. It even keeps track of how many embarrassing errors it has saved you from publishing and delivers a weekly report.

Slack

Say hello to the modern-day AOL Instant Messenger. Working in public relations requires flexibility and collaboration with your team members. Slack allows us to do just that. With Slack, you’re able to create different channels to organize conversations, attach important files or send direct messages to each employee or intern. Plus, it’s much easier than shooting an email just to ask for a quick favor or answer a question. Once you go Slack, you’ll never go back.

Dropbox

Dropbox is an invaluable cloud service. You can back files up to the cloud, sync them between computers, and share them with our team. These features make it easy to access saved folders from anywhere. That’s not all it can do, though. Dropbox automatically creates backups of files and keeps a log of changes made, perfect for tracking progress on a project. Our Dropbox helps organize client photoshoots, graphic design files and important documents.

Microsoft OneNote

With multiple clients and social accounts to keep track of, sometimes there can be too many “tabs” open in your brain! That’s why we use OneNote, a digital note-taking app that allows our team to share meeting notes, documents and even attachments. It captures our ideas and organizes them across all devices, collecting them into labeled notebooks. Whether you’re in the office or on-the-go, OneNote automatically saves and synchronizes your thoughts and ideas so you can always pick up where you left off.

Spotify

It always improves my mood when there’s music playing while we work! Subscription streaming services like Spotify let you choose from an unlimited library with millions of songs. The themed playlists are updated every day, and you can even create radio stations based on favorite artists, songs or albums. There’s also the Discover Weekly playlist, with new music generated based on your listening habits. Now playing: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles.

Are there any apps, tools or services you couldn’t live without? Let us know in the comments!


Daley Henson is a public relations intern at KC Projects PR in Birmingham, AL. This article originally appeared on the agency’s blog.

A Reflection on Social Media and PR

As my time at Auburn University comes to an end, I can look back at my coursework and reflect on what I have learned throughout the spring semester. One class, PRCM 3280 (Social Media and PR), definitely stood out.

If you’re a public relations student at Auburn, I absolutely recommend taking the Social Media and PR class. In this digital age, a knowledge of social media and content management is vital for a career as a PR practitioner.

Millennials may think they “get” social media… how hard can it be to tweet, anyway? As digital natives, we assume our peers can handle their own online. But good social media management is the difference between:

  1. Throwing content into the void and hoping for the best, versus…
  2. Knowing that content is reaching and engaging your audience!

Plus, this Social Media and PR class was far from a simple lecture format. Instead, it has improved my writing, increased my Twitter engagement and given me valuable experience working with real-world clients.


increased Twitter ENGAGEMENT

Twitter is one of the staple social media sites that many public relations practitioners incorporate into their social media strategy. This course required three organic tweets each week, plus responses to three classmate’s posts.

I’ve always enjoyed Twitter, but used it mainly as a source of breaking news, funny memes or interesting articles. Thanks to this class, I have learned to manage my Twitter account like a media professional. Our class hashtag quickly became a wonderful source for public relations posts, case study examples and social media tips.

I’m no longer required to tweet on a weekly basis, but will do my best to continue the conversation online with classmates and the multiple social media influencers I’ve interacted with over the course of this class.

Refined writing skills

In addition to our tweets, I wrote a weekly blog post about different topics in social media. This assignment was definitely my favorite since I already enjoy reading, writing and researching about these topics in my free time!

However, this kind of writing is distinctive. In the past, my articles were written for journalism courses and focused on interviews. On this blog, I create content that shares social media knowledge while incorporating relevant research.

This opportunity refined my writing skills and served as an introduction to the world of blogging, whether as a private citizen or corporate entity. It also gave me confidence working with content management systems like WordPress.

Real-world experience

This semester, our class teamed up with Auburn’s School of Communication and Journalism to help improve their presence and engagement on social media.

During the semester, my group and I did both secondary and primary research as well as conducted a communication audit in order to better understand CMJN’s current social media practices. We also worked together in forming a strategic plan to increase their reach and better engage their target audience.

This was a great learning experience for our group since it allowed us to apply what we learned in class to a real-world client. My group has created a full report and will present to CMJN’s social media managers by the end of the semester.

This final project and presentation combined all the strategies that we have learned throughout our Social Media and PR course. This wasn’t the first time I have collaborated within a group to create a successful campaign for clients, and it definitely won’t be the last.


In conclusion, I believe public relations practitioners must embrace the digital age or get left behind by their competitors. Social media is here to stay! Armed with a Hootsuite Certification, I’m more confident than ever to work within the ever-changing world of social media marketing and management.

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to our professor, Dr. Sisson. From PR Fundamentals class to Social Media and PR, you’ve been such an influence on my education and future career. Thank you so much for your constant support moving into this next chapter of life!

For the last time, #Sisson3280.

Why a Major in Public Relations is the Perfect Fit

Mad MenChoosing a major in college can be stressful. Having to make that one decision that defines your next four years and future career is overwhelming! However, the decision to major in public relations is one I will never regret.

As a freshman at Auburn University, I had never heard of public relations. I only knew what I was good at… writing, editing, event planning, and all things social! My college career began in marketing (not creative enough) and then interior design (too creative). My advisor finally suggested public relations, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that guidance.

Coursework

While there are several required courses, the public relations major gives a variety of classes and elective to choose from. For example, I am able to take a Business Marketing class as well as a Writing for Television and Film class! Some of the required public relations courses include Journalism Fundamentals, Multimedia Writing for PR, Case Studies, PR Research and Style & Design.

Office SpaceThe coursework at Auburn University made me a better writer, stronger communicator, and a more effective event-planner. Through projects and presentations, I have learned how to work in a group setting and become comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Many classes have real-world clients involved, where you have the opportunity to conduct research or develop a campaign from start to finish for them. This class experience has given me great confidence in my public relations abilities, whether I’m in an internship or office position.

Internships

Auburn University requires every PR major to complete an internship before graduating. This requirement makes you more attractive to companies and helps broaden your horizons before a job search. The internship program must also prove that it actively strengthens a student’s PR skills. Therefore, the day to day intern work isn’t the typical coffee run and office work! Instead, PR students can learn and contribute to the workings of the organization.

Using MemesThe internship opportunities are truly endless, as every company needs an intermediary between the organization and its audience. It can be helpful to network with clients and begin building those relationships early. Internships can also help you to discover more about your interests. Through my own summer internship at a creative agency, I had the opportunity to work with multiple clients on event planning, press releases, websites, graphic design, and so much more. It helped me realize just how much I loved working with social media and digital content strategy!

Opportunities

One of the best things about the public relations major are the endless job opportunities available. Public relations is a versatile major, with skills that benefit in a variety of industries. Entertainment, athletics, fashion, healthcare, politics and non-profit organizations all utilize PR practitioners. A career in PR definitely doesn’t put you in a box!

Public relations is for the creative, the entrepreneur, the leader, the innovator, the writer, the communicator, the social media savvy, the designer, the problem-solver, the analyst, the researcher, the curious, and the driven.

Many public relations graduates choose to work with either a firm (such as an advertising agency) or go into corporate or “in-house,” which is investing in one client over time. Both avenues of work have their own pros and cons, and I’m still not 100% certain which course I will take in the future.

Public Relations

Public relations practitioners can easily become event planners, media relations experts, marketers or social media managers. Any job that requires strong writing skills and relationship-building would fit perfectly. From an advertising agency to a Fortune 500 company, your PR major is what you make of it!


Does a major in public relations interest you? Visit Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts website to learn more.

Crisis Communication Case Study: Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle hazmat suitChipotle Mexican Grill is known for their innovative, fast-casual and farm-fresh food. They’re definitely proud of their supply chain, so much so that marketing ads focus on their naturally-raised and organic ingredients. Their mission statement is even Food with Integrity.

These facts are ironic considering their recent struggles with food safety. Outbreaks of not one, but three food-borne illnesses and pathogens (Salmonella, E. coli, and norovirus) in Chipotle restaurants have resulted in numerous hospitalizations and fatalities. Their long-standing rhetoric of food integrity stands in contrast with the reality of bacteria making their way into your burrito!

The epidemic began in August 2015 at a Simi Valley, California location. A sick employee infected 234 customers, but the outbreak was over by the time health officials confirmed a link. In Minnesota, 64 customers ate tomatoes with a side of salmonella. The worst case came in November 2015, when more than 140 Boston College students (including half the men’s basketball team) picked up the highly contagious norovirus from their campus Chipotle. In total, almost 500 people in 9 states became sick from Chipotle’s food according to public health officials.

the apology

Biohazard ChipsThe effects were immediate once health authorities posted information. Sales and stocks were tumbling, and Chipotle saw their first quarterly decline as a public company. Steve Ells, the founder/CEO of Chipotle, made an appearance on the Today show on December 10 for a televised apology. Ells acknowledged the situation, apologized and expressed concern for the suffering customers. He announced a comprehensive food-safety program that would “exceed industry norms” and stated that Chipotle had recently hired two food-safety consulting firms. However, he admitted they still did not know which ingredients to blame. Produce that’s hard-to-clean and eaten raw is considered high-risk. At Chipotle, that’s the tomatoes, lettuce, and cilantro—the same stuff that gives that signature fresh taste.

“The fact that anyone has become ill eating at Chipotle is completely unacceptable to me, and I am deeply sorry,” Ells wrote. “As a result, we are committed to becoming known as the leader in food safety, just as we are known for using the very best ingredients in a fast-food setting.”

About a week after this apology, Chipotle placed full-page newspaper ads across the country pledging to do better. Ells also promised customers that Chipotle would be “the absolute safest place to eat.” Following these actions, more E. coli outbreaks were reported in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Lessons learned

In February 2016, Chipotle implemented strategies to win back its customers. They used an abundance of caution in closing down company-wide for an “employee food safety training meeting” on the morning of February 8. The brand also launched their giveaway campaign, called the “Chiptopia Rewards Program.” 5.3 million users downloaded coupons from Chipotle’s app for a complimentary burrito, and 50% of the coupons were redeemed.

Chipotle hazmat suitChipotle was absent online amidst this crisis, offering no public statement on its website or social channels. Their Facebook and Twitter pages only had responses to angry customers. Meanwhile, their website had pages devoted to their supply chain sourcing. No official channel acknowledged the crisis as Chipotle faced seven lawsuits and an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In January 2016, they finally updated their website with a “Focus on Food Safety” page addressing how the crisis happened, explaining the viruses and featuring more details of their new testing methods.

in review

I feel Chipotle could’ve had a stronger online presence throughout the crisis. Their social media channels were merely used as customer service tools. I also can’t help but wonder how they could emphasize their fresh ingredients while skipping over food safety basics. It doesn’t matter how fresh or healthy their food is if it’s been contaminated! Finally, I wouldn’t have stated to press that Chipotle would be “the safest place to eat.” This generalization is impossible to guarantee, and the CEO looked foolish as he was proved wrong yet again.

Mark Crumpacker, the Chipotle chief creative and development officer, said “There’s nothing worse from a trust perspective. This is not the kind of problem that you market your way out of.”

In conclusion, Chipotle was honest, authentic and quick to put their CEO and communications team on damage control with this situation. They did a good job changing the conversation with their Chiptopia rewards program, which was necessary to win back wary customers. It’s unfortunate that their marketing and branding centered so heavily on their food production before this crisis, as I feel it only made the irony of the situation even more tempting for media coverage.

Spring Break 2017: The Final Countdown

Carnival Cruise

As a senior facing graduation, I’m counting down the days of my collegiate life. It’s hard to believe that my golden years as an Auburn student are now coming to an end. However, this final spring break comes at the perfect time. Between classes, interviews and midterm exams, I’m ready for a tropical vacation!

Since this will be my last collegiate getaway, I want it to be perfect. And being the planner I always am, I’ve created a public relations plan for my spring break trip! This public relations plan lays out my goals for spring break, the objectives that will help me achieve my goals and the strategies and tactics that make sure my objectives are accomplished.

Ferris Bueller Quote

Goal: To cherish my friends and the limited time we have left together as college students.

Objective 1: To increase the time I spend with friends by 100% over spring break and make up for those nights spent studying.

Strategy: Taking a cruise to Mexico. Taking a cruise as a group of friends gives us the freedom to enjoy quality time together on vacation without worrying about planning our itinerary.

Tactic: Quality time by the water. This tactic won’t be hard to come by throughout our time together on a cruise ship. We have five days of beautiful beaches and resort-style pools to look forward to!

Tactic: Good food. “Foodies” would be an understatement when describing my group of friends. A good brunch is required, and desserts are researched in advance (chocolate lava cake is a must).

Goal: To enjoy a relaxing and stress-free vacation.

Objective 2: To see a 50% decrease in stress levels by the end of the week. With this objective, I aim to unwind and recharge.

Cruise GymStrategy: Practice self-care by going to the spa or gym on our cruise. Endless buffets can often lead to weight gain, so fitness is important. I can then ease any sore muscles with a spa massage.

Tactic: Catching up on much-needed sleep. There’s nothing better than snoozing the day away in a tropical cabana or basking in the sun with a Pina Colada nearby!

After all that analysis and planning, based on the outlined goals, objectives, strategies and tactics, I don’t see why this spring break can’t exceed expectations!

Bon Voyage!

Carnival Sunshine