Building up immunities: Pitching right brain PR ideas to left brain management

Each semester I watch my students struggle with problems getting clients on board for projects; getting clients to relinquish social media control (which they haven’t bothered to use anyway); getting clients to see students as more than technicians to carry out their every whim; getting clients to understand the power and importance of public relations. This semester at the Manship School of Mass Communication is no different.

Now let me be frank, it hurts me to see my students struggle. Sometimes they are angry. Sometimes they are in tears. Sometimes they are so stressed it makes them physically ill. The mommy in me wants to take all these 18-20 somethings in my arms and cuddle them and whisper, “it’s going to be o.k.” But I don’t because, well, that would just be creepy.

Instead, I have to take the same approach I do when my kids (ages 4 and 6) crawl all over the floor in a restaurant. I have to sigh and think to myself, “they are just building up their immune system.”

Many of my students have already begun to grasp this learning-experience for what it is. In meetings they say to me, “this is just preparing me for the real-world” or “I need to be ready as I will face this every day as a PR person.” Their immune systems are adapting.

Many of my students are still struggling with this experience. They are SLOWLY coming to terms with the idea that their project may not go as planned. The client might reject their proposal. They may have to change things to make the client happy. Their immune systems are fighting.

I hate that they have to go through this process, but I’d rather they do it now, in the safety of my class, than have these “viruses” sprung on them when they enter the real world.

John F. Budd Jr. had this to say about the process:

“Why do CEOs lack enthusiasm for many ideas proferred by PR practitioners? One reason is that we’re trying to sell right-brain ideas to left-brain oriented executives.

We all have two hemispheres to our brain. CEOs primarily use their left; it is the half that solves specfic problems. It is logical, linear.

We, on the other hand, use our right brain more; it is the half that gives us intution, the propensity to dream, creativity, the ability to sense and perceive.

Here are nine differences:

  • The left brain administers; the right brain innovates.
  • The left brain copies; the right brain originates.
  • The left brain asks how; the right brain asks what and why.
  • The left brain has its eye on the bottomline; the right brain has its eye on the horizon.
  • The left brain focuses on systems and structures; the right brain is freeform.
  • The left brain accepts the status quo; the right brain challenges it.
  • The left brain wants control; the right brain wants credibility.
  • The left brain things short-range; the right brain thinks farther out.
  • The left brain does things right; the right brain does the right thing.”

Left-brain vs Right-brain

These are the things I need them to grasp, the types of left-brain thinking I need them to be exposed to, before they graduate and get their first real job. I’m hopeful that the PR Campaigns projects and the Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR project will expose them to these to the point that they develop immunities and learn how to adapt to left-brain thinking. That they see the power in their right-brain PR selves and learn how to convey their ideas in ways that left-brain people accept. After all, innovation, critical-thinking, credibility, long-term planning and doing the right thing are necessary to be a successful, responsible organization. It’s time they learn how to pitch these things to left-brain managers.

P.S. Want to know if you are left-brained or right-brained? Take this online quiz.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Trek season in Baton Rouge: SCVNGR for social good

Every time I drive onto the LSU campus via Dalrymple Drive I feel a sense of awe at how beautiful Baton Rouge is. There is an amazing variety of wildlife, trees and flowers at the LSU lakes and campus. I walk around constantly looking at things here and wondering what they are. For example, I am constantly curious what the beautiful birds are that I see in the water here.

The LSU lakes

What if there was a mobile application where you could find out not only what type of bird you were looking at in any particular place, but who else had been there, what they liked best, and tips they might have for you? Oh wait, there is an app for that. It’s called SCVNGR.

This semester the PR Writing students at the Manship School of Mass Communication are creating SCVNGR Treks for local Baton Rouge nonprofits. Many of these will include outdoor activities (e.g., a Trek through the Baton Rouge park and recreation system) that will employ important aspects of game mechanics such as: achievements, behavioral momentum, discovery, points and progression.

Since it has been about 75 degrees and sunny the last few weeks it’s a great time to Trek though Baton Rouge. Gamifying the Baton Rouge community will make being in local places more fun. If the Treks are constructed correctly, it should also increase audience engagement for each of the nonprofits. While Baton Rouge is certainly lovely and entertaining, the ultimate goal of this project is the latter.

The PR students are trying to use SCVNGR to influence social good. As you can see in this early gamification article, this project is not the first one to use game mechanics for social good (you can also see that SCVNGR is also not the first mobile application to be used this way).

In December 2010 SCVNGR teamed up with American Eagle to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

This week the students will be working hard on creating engaging Treks for their nonprofits. It will be interesting to see which game mechanics they will apply and how they intend to use PR tactics to promote the SCVNGR Trek and their nonprofit organization.

Follow us on this journey via Facebook (Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR) and Twitter (@discoverBTR).

Preparing future PR professionals using SCVNGR (and politicians)

As educators there are a lot of things we want to accomplish. We want to develop critical thinkers. We want to encourage students to go out and behave ethically and contribute to society. We want to create situations where students feel that what they are learning in the classroom directly relates to what they will be doing in the real world.

This semester I am teaching PR Writing at the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU. As in previous semesters, I began with the fear that the writing course would become more of a “survey” of writing tactics used to get messages out to internal and external publics. I usually worry that having the students do a news release one week, a social media release the next week, and a feature release the following week is not providing them with enough of an opportunity to REALLY learn these important tactics.

So, this semester I have made some changes to the PR Writing course. Instead of having them write one of each tactic for the client I am having the students write their first news releases, media kits, pitch letters, etc. for the presidential candidate of their choice and then having them complete a “mini-campaign” built around a local nonprofit using SCVNGR (a geolocation-based gaming application) to engage its audience members. This way they get to practice (and receive feedback) in the classroom before they are expected to write for a client as well as get more practice using the tactics we go over in class.

Based on the SCVNGR partnership, for each Baton Rouge nonprofit client they are expected to create a minimum of eight from the following list:

    • Bio Sketch
    • Media Kit (with Fact Sheet & Backgrounder)
    • News Release
    • Feature Release
    • Social Media Release
    • Advertisement (television, radio or print)
    • PSA
    • Newsletter
    • Position Paper
    • Speech
    • Website Plan including Web Blog
    • Event Plan
    • Any other creative assignment the client might want (i.e., postcard, brochure, flyer).

It’s my hope that this combination (practice in class and then create for real-life) moves PR Writing past being a “survey” course. I also hope that it encourages students to develop the critical thinking skills, ethical and professional behaviors and skills they will need to be successful in the real world of public relations.

Follow us on this journey via Facebook (Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR) and Twitter (@discoverBTR).