PR Writing at Marquette University

ADPR 3600


We learned many lessons this semester, but one of the most important is how the people you know and connections you make can go a long way in helping your career.

We had many guest speakers this semester and they were all excellent. They provided us with valuable information about how to succeed in the real world. With each guest speaker we had, we were provided with their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so that we could speak with them before/after their visit. They were all willing to talk with us about our clients, projects and careers. 

Making connections with these people is something that we were never explicitly taught in class. It was implied that we should use these people as resources, but we never discussed how helpful this can be. People always say that working in the real world is “not about what you know, it’s about who you know” and I honestly believe that is true. We have been exposed to people in all types of communication roles. Even something as simple as the best way to connect with someone on LinkedIn, which was taught to us by Wayne, can really make a difference.

I have never had a class where I was exposed to so many guest speakers. I am grateful that I had this opportunity and I honestly learned something from each speaker. I am thankful that they took the time out of their busy lives to come and speak with us. The guests we had contributed to this excellent class.

Yes! I hoped this would be one of the biggest lessons of the class. The connections you make in college and beyond are invaluable, and I’m indebted to all the clients, mentors and speakers who shared their knowledge with our class this semester. I’ll repeat my final update from our Facebook group here: 

If there’s one thing I hope this semester has taught you, it’s that you can learn and grow through a wide variety of people. That goes for your clients too, for better or for worse. I encourage you to send them a personal note to wrap up the semester. You never know where a connection will take you. And speaking of that, I hope you’ll stay in touch and let me know if I can ever help you in the future. You can find me on LinkedIn at  

Have a great summer!  

“I don’t know about Math and Science, but when it comes to writing, I’ve found that a higher page count can often lead to a higher bullshit count.”

—    Matthew Manning 

4 ways to create memorable messages

"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel." – Maya Angelou

Facts can get someone’s attention. But feelings are what they will remember. 

That’s why when you’re sharing your client’s message, you need to give your audience something they can hold onto when facts, figures and statistics fade. 

The entire semester you’ve been working on crafting, refining and sharing your client’s messages in a variety of formats, from SEO to infographics. 

Now we will distill this message even further when you make a pitch to the media on why they should do a story on your client. Your goal is to leave them with a distinct feeling. You want to be memorable. 

Over the last week we heard from Jeff Snell and Tim Washer, who both exhibited and shared techniques for making your messages memorable.  Here are some of those tactics you can borrow as we prepare to make a final pitch for your client. 

Tell stories

Our brains are wired to respond to stories. In fact, they make our neurons light up. That’s why Jeff Snell talked about his experiences as a president of a non-profit or even hanging out with the Hiltons. We make connections between the narrative, our reactions and the message. Stories move us to believe and to act. 

Challenge assumptions

A story doesn’t get interesting or a joke doesn’t become funny until something unexpected happens. The inciting incident is part of the dramatic structure that keep us reading a book, watching a television show or following a series. In the same way,   people can tune out your message unless it captures their interest with something unexpected. Jeff did this when talking about social innovation by challenging traditional assumptions and beliefs about non-profits and charity. This can make you take notice because it’s the opposite of what you expect to hear.  

Share the origin

Spider-Man wouldn’t have super powers if he hadn’t allowed a burglar to get free that ultimately killed his uncle. Batman wouldn’t be out for revenge on bad guys if his parents hadn’t been tragically killed in front of him. Superman wouldn’t be different if he wasn’t from another planet. Superheroes get their power from the forces that created them. Maybe your client isn’t a superhero, but what caused them to start their organization, sell a product or adopt a cause has the same power. Tim Washer described this as “peeling the onion” or asking the question “what motivates you?” Because people don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.  

Focus on the emotion, not the product 

Jewelry commercials are masters at this tactic. Most ads in this genre will show people celebrating holidays, popping the question, or marking an anniversary. Then at the very end you get a brief shot of a diamond ring or necklace to associate the feeling with the product. In essence, what’s being sold is the feeling of romance - and the jewelry is a means to that end. What feeling is your client trying to create? 

These are only a few techniques for getting your message to stand out. What makes something memorable for you? 

“It turns out that analytics isn’t as scary as it sounds. It’s simply looking back at old content and finding what type of posts performed the best. Then just use this kind of information to generate more posts that have a better chance of performing well.”


Marcia’s MU Writes Blog: Thoughts about Analytics 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. 

Don’t create an SEO bridge to nowhere

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. 

And if you don’t know your target audience, any keywords will do.  

This is why it’s important for PR people to be involved with SEO strategy. You can’t optimize a page until you know why and for whom you’re optimizing it. 

The key concept of SEO is to know what you provide and what your customers are looking for — and then create a bridge between these worlds with the right links and copy.

This sounds straightforward, but it can take some investigation to get it right. 

Jen Keller, a Milwaukee SEO consultant, shared a story about one of her clients who sold furniture to facility managers and purchasers at universities. 

Originally, they wanted to rank high in search results for “dorm furniture” related terms. 

The only problem was that people searching for “dorm chairs” or “lofts for dorms” are parents and students. That wasn’t the client’s target audience. It would have created a bridge to nowhere. 

Their real audience — the ones with the power to make purchasing decisions for universities — referred to their product as “residence hall furniture.” So that’s what they went with when they optimized their pages.

"The details, Keller said, "make a huge difference." 

Want to learn more about SEO strategy? Here’s a link to Keller’s SEO presentation

Photo credit: Praline3001 on Flickr

3 reasons to use analytics

Thanks Dilbert for the comic strip

Without analytics, writing is an exercise in guessing what you think your audience wants.

But when you look at data — whether it’s open rates, click-throughs, likes, comments or other metrics — you can start to make educated decisions about what resonates with people.  

Here are three ways analytics can be your guide. 

It tells you what to do MORE

Peaks and valleys aren’t only about seasonality. If you pay attention to responses to all of your message, you’ll see that some resonate and some don’t. Don’t ignore or try to fight those trends - embrace them. Find the commonalities to what makes a hit. Is it time of day? Type of medium? Photos vs. text? Find the equation that makes up your most popular posts, and do more of that. Don’t treat all of your messages as equal.   

It tells you what NOT to do

This may seem overly obvious after looking at your most popular posts, but if you add more of something you’ll need to subtract something else. It’s the survival of the fittest messages. At the same time, your clients or colleagues may ask you to continue messages that you now know don’t work. Instead of clinging to ineffective message points, you can use hard data to show them why they don’t work — and why you should change. 

It proves your value 

"Show, don’t tell" was one of my favorite professor’s sayings. And when you have analytics, you can show (not tell) your client, your boss and your colleagues exactly what you’re doing - and why it’s valuable. 

The power of SEO


I have always been the person obsessed over the smallest details. Everything must be color coded, organized and arranged in a certain way that most benefits my needs. Some may call this OCD, I call it the only way I am able to stay organized taking 19 credits and a full time internship. So, when we began discussing the world of SEO’s and the attention to detail it requires I became obsessed.

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There is a season


It’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

If you haven’t noticed, it’s March Madness season on campus and around the country. Everything seems to fade into the background for a few weeks while the nation’s attention turns to brackets. 

But for those in a communication field, it’s not all about what happens on the court. 

Above is a screenshot of Google Trends for the volume of searches related to the term “Marquette.” The peaks you see are every March, and even the prediction for the next peak (the dotted lines) appears at March 2014.

Every year around tournament time we set records or reach annual heights for social media interaction and traffic. There’s something called the Flutie Effect that explains the increase in awareness and attention for universities as a result of sudden success in sports.  

At Marquette, we released a new video for those people who will be searching for us during the tournament, sent out media advisories, updated our homepage, and prepared for a social media blitz. It’s like Christmas in March. 

But this post is not all about sports. It’s also about bug spray. 

In his talk to PRSSA last night, Edelman Digital Senior Vice President Phil Gomes referenced Google Trends related to "insect repellant" vs. "bug spray" searches. One of his points was to show that how people talk matter - you should be using the terms that resonate with your audience. 

But he also pointed out how searches for “bug spray” peak during the summer and bottom out during the winter. This makes intuitive sense. 

This seasonal effect also applies to almost everything else. Chances are there are seasonal peaks and valleys for your client. In PR, to everything there is a season, to borrow a phrase from The Byrds/ the Bible

Your job is to take advantage of when awareness is heightened and there is potential interest in your client. Carpe diem. The technical term for this is using the Tent Pole Effect, or using one popular event to gather others and hold up your offerings. 

There are a couple different ways to go about taking advantage of the seasonal/Tent Pole Effect. 

First, you can find angles that apply to your clients around popular seasonal trends that are easy to predict and plan for. Because New Year’s resolutions articles are popular around January, for example, you might start preparing in November to showcase how your client’s snack foods can be healthy.

Second, you can create your own seasonal push. This is why there are awareness days or weeks for certain causes, like Bike To Work Week or #GivingTuesday for non-profits. These operate like holidays for certain niches, because they are time-bound, build up expectations and have the potential to create those peaks in awareness and response. 

Third and finally, there are certain upswings that you can’t always predict, but when they arrive you can treat them like they’re a holiday. When a Jesuit became pope, for example, it was very unexpected, but it also became an opportunity to showcase Marquette’s Jesuit tradition. It was almost like a holiday (that we had no time to prepare for) was added to our calendar. 

Bottom line, you can’t expect linear performance for your client. Everything is subject to fluctuations. The key is to anticipate and find those moments of potential - and make the most of them. 

Mobile is the current No. 1 source for Marquette’s new Facebook likes. Also, people really like snow photos. 

Rethinking mobile


Mobile isn’t just a smaller screen. It’s a state of mind. 

Often we hear people talk about reaching people on their phones or tablets with stripped down websites, apps and quick-hit information. 

Those tactics may work, but it has to take into account the more important issue with mobile: It’s “me” time. 

According to Harvard Business Review, there are seven primary motivations people have for going on their smart phones or tablets. And by far and away the biggest category is “me time.” This will likely only grow as tablets continue to spread. 

Desktops can have more utilitarian functions and associations with work. But when you’re on your phone or iPad, it’s personal. In fact, 68 percent of smart phone use is in the home. 

When you’re taking time for yourself, the last thing you want is advertisements, intrusions and the hard sell. 

This is where PR people can shine. 

Think about how you can connect with someone taking me time. Is it a post on Facebook mobile that reminds someone they can use your client’s product this weekend? Is it connecting with a reporter on Twitter over shared interests? Is it a behind-the-scenes photo from a client for Instagram? 

The more personal you can make it, the more “me time” your audience will give to you.

Infographic from Harvard Business Review