Moments of perfection: Winding down PR writing for the semester

When I worked in baseball for the St. Paul Saints professional team in St. Paul, MN, my favorite time of the day was right before the stadium opened on gameday. I had completed all my PR tasks for that day (e.g., releases, meet and greets, event plans) and had to shift gears to get ready to work community relations for the game that night. I would take a few minutes and go out into the empty stadium and just stare at the field. I didn’t know how we were going to play that night; if we were going to win or lose (and to be honest, I didn’t care). I just knew that I had completed my PR tasks and I could take a moment to simply look over the beautifully prepared field and just relax.

Every homestand the field would look different. The Midway Stadium grounds crew were artists. Sometimes they would mow a checkerboard into the field, sometimes large swirls. The pitcher’s mound would be pristine and the chalk lines would be unmarred. The stadium was quiet, still and clean — with no signs of the roaring crowds that would be there in just a few short hours. It was perfection.

The field at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, MN where the St. Paul Saints play.

I’m a huge Battlestar Galactica fan (yes, I’m a nerd:). When I heard Sam Anders‘ speech on perfection in the final episode of the show (Daybreak, part 1) it really resonated with me. That’s what I look for every day — out of myself, out of my colleagues and out of my students. If you’re not a fan of the show (or even know what it is) I still think this clip will resonate with you.

“What matters to me…it’s perfection. That’s what it’s about. It’s about those moments when you, when you can feel the perfection of creation… And that is the kind of perfection that I want to be connected to” (Sam Anders, BSG 2009).

This semester my PR Writing students have been using SCVNGR, a geolocation-based mobile application, in a service-learning project called Discover Baton Rouge. Teams of 4-5 students have created smartphone treks for local nonprofits (BREC, Baton Rouge Zoo, Hilltop Arboretum, Capitol Park Museum) and then created promotional materials to support the new mobile treks. I’ve been looking over some of the items they have created and am so impressed. They have done amazing work and should be proud of themselves.

It’s those moments, when you can look back over a job well-done and sigh… or just relax and admire something beautiful that make PR (and teaching) worthwhile.

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

Watching the transformation in PR Writing

The first week of class I have students write a press release. I give them the format and the topic (write to your hometown newspaper about your involvement in this class). I got this assignment from a former colleague of mine, Dr. Ivan Pinnell at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University. Dr. Pinnell graded his and took one point off for each error. He told me that once he had a student start the semester -200 points in the hole (and come crying to him that they had to drop the class as they would never be able to recover). He didn’t, in fact, actually grade the assignment — he just used it to show the students how much they needed to improve.

I have taken the assignment a different direction. I don’t use it to scare them, but I do use it to show them how far they have come. My goal is to take them from this:

To this:

In the coming weeks, the PR Writing students at the Manship School of Mass Communication will complete their first service-learning opportunity. We spent the first 10 weeks of the course in the classroom learning how to research, create and distribute news releases, social media releases, blogs, Twitter posts, brochures, letters, etc. For the past few weeks they have been working outside the classroom on a grant from geolocation-based gaming application, SCVNGR, to help Baton Rouge nonprofits engage audiences. They set up a SCVNGR trek for each nonprofit and are now in the process of creating promotional materials regarding the mobile trek for the nonprofit. They went from learning to applying in the span of one semester. Pretty cool, huh?

I have to tell you, the quality of the writing has dramatically improved from that first week. The students have moved from creating basic, scattered news releases to creating wonderful PR documents. They have become more confident in their writing and editing skills. Check out their blogs (listed in my blogroll) and follow them on their journey.

The students are on spring break this week, but they will hit the ground running again on Monday when the return. I’m excited to see what amazing deliverables these teams will produce. I’m also excited to see what they will have for their final digital portfolios (which I’ll share at the end of the semester).

I have saved the initial news releases they wrote for me (just in case they lost theirs) so they can see just how far they have come in a few short weeks. I hope they are as impressed with their work as I am.

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