Archive for October, 2011

Watch Out For Trademark Laws!

Ever heard of the trademark law? If you’re a public relations professional or studying to be, one of the most important aspects of the law to be aware of is the trademark law.

According to THINK Public Relations book, a trademark is a word, symbol, or slogan, used singly or in combination, that identifies a product’s origin.

It is difficult to find a trademark that is not already in use with millions of businesses and organizations.  It becomes increasingly difficult when trying to capitalize a company and anything that you come up with that looks remotely similar to theirs can ignite a lawsuit claiming trademark infringement.

Here are some examples of trademark infringement cases:


Companies try to keep people from misusing a trademark word so that it doesn’t become generic.  Misusing a trademark word for example may be saying “Here’s a kleenex” when in reality the proper use of the term would be “Here’s a Kleenex tissue” The problem here was that the trademark word was used as a noun.

According to Chapter 9 of THINK Public Relations, trademark infringement also can result from the unauthorized use of public figures such as athletes and well-known entertainers.  Misappropriation of deceased celebrities are also a form of trademark infringement.

At first, just learning all the laws and regulations can make a career in Public Relations become increasingly intimidating.  This is a very crucial aspect of this field to learn because it’s not exactly black and white here. However, with that said, if you’re going into PR, fear not!

Here are some telltale signs of trademark infringement (from our book THINK Public Relations).  These are what courts use to determine if trademark infringement has occured.

In summary:

  • Defendant capitalizes on a reputation of another organization’s trademark
  • Defendant uses poor definition of relationship or hides separation of two entities, or implies connection between the two
  • Similarity of organizations
  • Is the company with the protected trademark using it with its products/services?
  • Is the trademark unique?

In class last week we watch a video of how we uncontiously pick up all types of messages and pictures and ideas that when asked to create a unique, original piece (music, art, ad, campaign, etc) , it may not be as original as we think.  That’s why it is important that though we may not copy things verbatim or copy and ad with minor changes, we may be uncontiously using other organizations or people’s ideas that could be legitimately infringement.


Interview a PR professional

In my Public Relations Applications course, we were required to interview one Public Relations professional.

Thankfully I was referred to James B. Bernegger by my PR professor. I was very fortunate to have this opportunity to interview him.

Mr. Bernegger is the Director of Marketing & Media Relations at Sun-n-Fun and has an undergraduate degree in government.

This is sort of a summary of the phone interview that took place October 28, 2011. Before we began, he took my name and the name of my school for personal records. Because this was a phone interview I was typing as much as I could of what he said. The main points of what he said is included here; however, he explained some questions in much greater detail that I did not include here.

1) What’s a typical week like? (If no week is typical, then what was last week like?) ..
• There is no typical week. During a week there are standard meetings within the organization. There is a staff meeting where all the managers and directors at Sun-n-Fun get together to brief one another on what has developed. Spring Break for Pilots is one of the major events.
2) Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.
• I’m proud of them all but this event has to be singly focused. Part of my job as a director of marketing and media relations is basically to define our organization. I contribute to the pricing of the event for each of those individuals, the appearance they will be coming in to. The appearance and content that we send to each of these constituents. And finally the execution.
3) What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?
• There is an endless stream of publications, emails and newsletters throughout the entire year. We also attend many other major aviation events called parade shows. There are four major associations of pilots and each has their own parade show.
4) What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?
• Well, to know what it’s all about. I had an undergrad in government. I had had a chance to train with an advertising agency. You must have a significant work ethic and be a good writer in public relations. Also use of social media are becoming even more important. In creating awareness and an impression of an organization and an event.
5) How important is writing in your career?
• Writing and sensitivity to your audience who you are addressing is very important. Communication skills are crucial.
6) What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?
• Look for an opportunity to start out where you would feel proud of the organization with whom you’re associated with. This is going to require significant amount of time and energy Look for an opportunity to work with a range of departments in an organization so you get an early appreciation for the scope of the business. Also look for the opportunity for advancement.
7) When your company is hiring for an entry-level PR position, what makes a candidate stand out?
• Much of that is first of all their presence. Their ability to communicate and to present themselves is critical. Their ability to listen is a feature that I value significantly. The indication that they have an awareness of the world’s events and have understanding of an issue and that they can demonstrate an issue and have some sense of its relevance.
After the interview he told me he was very interested in having some of my class intern with him during our senior year.
Overall, the interview went extremely well. He was very easy to talk to and he described different aspects of his career in a way that could be easly understood. I could tell he’s passionate about what he does. By this interview with Mr. Bernegger, I understand more clearly what a career in public realtions entails and the PR profession is more appealing now than ever. Thanks Mr. Bernegger!

You know you’re in PR when…

Hilarious!  53 Signs you work in public relaitons.  11 of them are from Lauren Fernandez, the rest are from readers of Regan’s PR Daily.

Here are some good ones….

You’re afraid to go more than 15 minutes (max) without checking Twitter/Facebook/news feeds to make sure you’re not missing anything.
EVERYTHING in your life—from doing the laundry to playing a round of golf—is recorded in your mind in 15-minute billable increments.

You’ve heard all the lines about sleep: “Sleep is overrated.” “You can sleep all you want when you die.” “Do you ever sleep?”

You start your day by digging out of client and competitor alerts and checking email, all before you’re out of bed.

Every Friday around 5:00 p.m. you think, “This could be crisis time!” (And sometimes even look forward to a good one.)

You know what time it is anywhere in the world and every country’s phone code, all without having to look at a reference guide.

Click here to read the entire article!

Learn about Online media law — Online for Free!

On I took a free online course called Online Media Law:  The Basics for Bloggers and Other Publishers.  the course had good quality information about defamation, copyright infringement, and privacy invasion.

Here’s a summary of the course:

1) The first point I learned was about DeFaMaTiOn

In brief, defamation means that one’s reputation is injured. In other words…we can be guilty of defamation if something we project any false statement to anyone but the plantiff.  ie. it can be through a blog post, something published on the Internet or Web site or even a third-party email.

There are two types of defamation that I learned about and they are written defamation and spoken defamation.

2) Point number two is InVaSiOn Of PrIvAcY

I learned that invasion of privacy is more like binoculars and tiny microphones and coming onto private scenes rather than regular reporting on things that people don’t necessarily want seen by other people.

3) Point number three is CoPyRiGhT InFrInGeMeNt

When asking yourself what can be copyrighted…ideas and names cannot. The copyright law is a federal law which is in place to protect the “original works of authorship” in legal terms. 

Overall, I think the course had good information.  Although, the nature of the topic was a little much for the duration of the course. It was hard to understand, in my opinion because there were so many “if’s, or’s, and but’s” to it. With it being about law, that is expected. 

The course did include practice senario examples which helped but as far as having a good grasp of the whole concept, I may have missed it.  I may have to go over the course a few more times because there is a lot of information there. It’s a little hard to take in all at once. It may have been because all this was fairly new to me. 

As my Bible professor would say, “we learn in layers”;in other words, we build upon what we already know. 


Measuring Effectiveness of a Campaign

Chapter 6 of THINK Public Relations laid out the four essential steps of effective public relations: Research, Planning, Communication and Measurement

In this blog I will lay out the basics on how a PR practitioner can measure the effectiveness of a campaign via the importance of measurement — derived from the book THINK Public Relations, chapter 7.  So here it goes…lets begin with defining measurement.

Measurement — the evaluation of results against agreed upon objectives established during planning. 

So, in this step we are basically gauging our level of success based on our goals/objectives that we made when we started the campaign. 

At first it may seem impossible to measure the success of pr, but that’s why you have to know where to start.  There are 3 levels of measurement in which to guage the effectiveness of your PR campaign.  The basic level of measurement deals with just that…the basics.  If you want to get technical use intermediate or for the most advanced measurements, is the measurement of behaviors, attitudes and opinions. This just gives you a starting point so you wont be overwhelmed because obviously we know that guaging success based on hunderds, thousands, or possibly millions of audience members can be quite difficult. 

3 levels of measurement: 

  • BASIC measurement:

Targeted Audiences, Impressions, Media Placements 

  • INTERMEDIATE measurement:

Retention, Comprehension, Awareness, Reception

  • ADVANCED measurement:

Behavior Change, Attitude Change, Opinion Change

According to THINK Public Relations, some commonly known forms of public relations measurement objectives are as follows:

1. Message Exposure. The level of exposure the message has in going out through various forms of mass media.

2. Accurate Dissemination of the Message.  The basic information, often filtered by the media gatekeepers, remains intact as it is transmitted through various forms of media.

Wilbur Schramm’s communication model showing the idea of continuous feedback and showing the public relations process of research, planning, communication, and measurement as cyclical. 

3.  Acceptance of the Message.  Audience accepts the message as reality and retains message.

4.  Attitude Change. Audience accepts the message and has an attitude change and makes a verbal or mental resolution to do something in response to message. 

5.  Change in Overt Behavior.  Audience changes behavior in response to message and buys the product and uses it.


99 Ways to be Awesome at PR

I think by now you can tell that I love lists….  more so than a bunch of words all jumbled together without obvious organization.

So, here is another list for all you lists lovers like me…

I found this article in the Ragan’s PR Daily site. —  99 ways to improve your business communication by Susan Young.

This list is great if you just want to brush up on your skills in networking, interviewing, managing, etc.

Take some time and read through, you might find some timely advice for your next PR encounter!


I read on Ragan’s PR Daily an article by Susan Young, 20 things every PR pro should know how to do.

This is a great compiliation of tips for success in the PR field.  The article includes multiple links to articles on over 40 different topics.  Here’s a list of ones I found quite interesting that you may want to read.  

Newspaper Sports Reporter

For a complete list and to read Susan’s article or to find many other great articles relating to Public Relations, click here.

Steve Jobs — Inspirational Quotes

Steve Jobs was an enthusiastic leader who changed the way we do technology.  Every time we use our iPod,  iPhone, iPad,  iMac or MacBook we can thank this man.  Steve Jobs left behind not only a legacy but also his vision.  Here’s a compilation of quotes from Ragan’s PR Daily that The Wall Street Journal did at the time of his resignation as CEO of Apple.

[Read Quotes]

Firm or Department — which would you work for?


You’ve just graduated college and you’re ready to start your career as a public relations practitioner.  Do you choose to work for a PR firm or a PR agency?

To begin one must know the difference between a department and a firm.

Basically the difference is this…

PR firm (also known as an Agency) represents clients.  For example, The Publicity Agency “represents ordinary people who find themselves at the center of big news stories”.  Not everyone has a public relations representative when they need one.  They could also be hired out by an organization.  It’s essentially outsourcing for PR.

In contrast, PR department is housed within a company (in house PR department), represents that company, and spends that company’s money.


So which is the best place to start a career?

There are advantages and disadvantages of each.  Here’s my take on it:


A PR firm is horizontal.

If you’re young, love excitement and a fast-paced environment, a PR firm might be just the place for you.  You will gain experience quickly and find yourself building a large network with professionals, which is great especially if you’re looking for rapid advancement.  Networking and variety is a given because you will be working with different companies, organizations, people, etc.

The most frequent services provided by public relations firms according to THINK Public Relations are:

  1. Marketing Communications
  2. Executive Speech Training
  3. Research and Evaluation
  4. Crisis Communication
  5. Media Analysis
  6. Community Relations
  7. Events Management
  8. Public Affairs


A PR department is vertical

A PR department offers a slower paced environment as well as allows for a deeper knowledge of the company in which your doing PR for.  What the PR practitioner is able to do often depends on the size of the organization.

According to THINK Public Relations, common divisions found in large corporations include:

  1. Media Relations
  2. Investor Relations
  3. Consumer Relations
  4. Consumer Affairs
  5. Governmental Relations
  6. Community Relations
  7. Marketing Communications
  8. Employee Communications

So, if you’re starting your career as a PR practitioner, I think it is more beneficial to go with the firm because I think the breadth of knowledge that you will obtain in such a versatile environment far outweighs the depth of knowledge that one will obtain in a single department with it being so specialized.  Find out what all is out there, make your connections, get well rounded, then….settle into a specialization or the particular department that you’ve discovered interests you the most.