Back to PR basics: A semester in review Wednesday, Apr 25 2012 

This is it – the last installment of First Im[PR]essions! I don’t know what’s harder for me to fathom – this being my last blog entry or how much my life has changed since the initial post. Two monumental changes are particularly relevant to my public relations journey and this class:

  • I landed my dream internship – a summer doing PR writing for LSU’s Office of Communications and University Relations! This is significant because of the goals I set for myself when starting this class: I needed to learn and perfect the skills required for a PR  internship, and I needed to actually snag the internship itself. Missions accomplished!
  • I became a Slytherin. Yep, J.K. Rowling’s Sorting Hat on Pottermore officially placed me among the likes of Harry Potter’s former nemeses Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape – and even the evil Lord Voldemort himself.

Why is the latter relevant to public relations, you ask? Slytherin House is a case study in bad PR. Slytherin is infamous for the numerous dark wizards who hailed from that Hogwarts house, and a few notorious villains can dominate public perception. No matter how many good people are sorted into Slytherin, only troublemakers make headlines. The same goes for the PR industry – people only get noticed when they’ve done something wrong.

Even though I know better, I’ve harbored this same negative misconception against Slytherins – which explains my shock and slight disappointment after being sorted as one. I spent weeks trying to rationalize the Sorting Hat’s decision, and I think I’ve got my answer. It lies first in careful examination of my “Slytherin welcome letter” – and second, surprisingly, in my evaluation of PRservingBR‘s Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR campaign and our partnership with LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum.

As one of Rowling’s characters explains, we Slytherins aren’t villains. We’re simply misunderstood. We’re “seeds of greatness” whose most prized trait is ambition. This isn’t an inherently bad quality, but it’s often abused and in excess it can lead to one’s downfall, which creates the negative perception.

All my life, I’ve been called an overachiever, a workaholic and a perfectionist. I set high academic standards for myself and others. When I began this class and the SCVNGR campaign, I had grand visions of creating events, promotions and media coverage for our client. But the reality of life for college students, nonprofit organizations and public relations practitioners in general, as well as the objectives for this class, necessitates other plans.

The result: PRservingBR’s unofficial campaign theme for LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum is “back to basics.” For now, our client just needs a solid introduction to social media, and our group needs to simply focus on creating the best tactics possible for our client to use.

This “back to basics” mentality applies specifically to me as well. Much of my stress from this campaign has resulted from losing sight of the things I can control and do – and do well. For the rest of this semester (which is only a week – yikes!), I’m focusing on myself, the things I know and those at which I excel. I know and love both LSU and writing. I’ve even been told I’m good at the latter. Luckily for me, I’m the writing director of a campaign featuring an aspect of my beloved LSU. It sounds like the recipe for success to me.

Ambition doesn’t mean losing oneself while trying to achieve the impossible. Ambition means doing the best job with the resources available.

Who says Slytherins don’t make good PR people?

– Kelly

P.S. – Let’s keep in touch! Connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter and, if you really want to get to know me, friend me on Facebook!

The “Big Reveal” of PRservingBR’s SCVNGR client! Wednesday, Apr 4 2012 

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you have all been waiting for — or at least the moment I have been hyping up for weeks in these blog entries — has finally arrived! As the title of this installment of First Im[PR]essions alludes, our hardworking “student firm,” PRservingBR, has signed a client for the Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR project!

Last week, we officially procured the business of LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum — and I genuinely do not think we could have gotten a more perfect client! The “nature” (pun only half-intended, but hey, it works!) of this specific nonprofit organization really makes it a prime candidate for a SCVNGR trek: We have an opportunity to take Baton Rougeans on a larger-than-life scavenger hunt of our beautiful capital city, and what better way to do that in the springtime than with a nature hike that is really a hidden treasure in our bustling metropolis? People are already antsy to get out and enjoy the balmy weather — now they will just be taking SCVNGR with them!

Our client also has the added advantage of ties to a prominent local entity: our dear old LSU. The Arboretum should be a great source of pride in the community, and we have access to a huge, multifaceted audience with one common characteristic: passion for anything even remotely related to the purple-and-gold.

I am one of those people, which is why I am very excited, on a more personal level, that LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum agreed to work with us. If there is one thing I want people to know about me, it is how much I truly love LSU, and working with a client to whom I feel connected illustrates everything about public relations that appeals to me. Studying this discipline at LSU’s Manship School helps me hone the invaluable skills of effective communication and promotion and apply them to any industry — and every industry needs public relations, which allows for versatility and endless possibilities. And of course, as a writer, I have always found it easiest to compose something that comes from the heart. For me, then, the key is to match my abilities with my passions to advocate for entities and causes in which I am deeply invested.

This accomplishes two goals: a fulfilling, successful career and a reputation of credibility and ethics. I have already received a lot of criticism, as most public relations people do, about my chosen professional path. Family and friends have accused me of joining a league of “organizational cheerleaders,” “spin doctors” and even “professional liars.” My aim is to change this cynical perception by illustrating how public relations is a powerful source for good and positivity in society if it is done honestly and professionally — in other words, if public relations practitioners mean what they are saying. This service-learning project for a client I am genuinely honored and excited to represent is the perfect chance to demonstrate this idea. After all, I think public relations IS a form of public service — hence our name, PRservingBR!

I chose public relations as my vocation so I could make a career out of serving and representing LSU in my own way (writing). Throughout this SCVNGR project and my post-graduation foray into public relations, my main sources of professional guidance will be the lyrics of our alma mater and the wisdom of Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

— Kelly

  • P.S. – If you can’t get enough of my LSU-lovefest or you simply want to learn more about me, connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn!

“Teamwork makes the dream work!” Wednesday, Mar 14 2012 

Welcome to my third installment of First Im[PR]essions!

As I mentioned in my last blog, I was really planning this entry as the “big reveal” moment (as they say on reality television) of our client for the Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR campaign. But here’s two valuable lessons I’ve learned, not just in my public relations classes, but in all courses at LSU that have a partner or group project: First, expect the unexpected. Second, the hardest work is the work you cannot do yourself!

The latter statement may seem contradictory at first, and different people may interpret it in various ways. Perfectionists probably translate it as: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” But public relations professionals would consider that sentiment extremely narcissistic: It implies your way is always the only right way. And in public relations, the key word is relations: One must learn to rely on and work with other people to accomplish things.

But for myself and for the purposes of this blog, I simply mean what most of my peers agree with: Group work always presents the most challenges. Coordinating schedules among busy college students leading our own hectic lives is difficult enough. But in this campaign, we have the added complexity of dealing with “real world” professionals who have much more pressing demands on their plate than helping college students with a class project.

In my Principles of Management class, which all LSU public relations majors must take, the concept of teamwork is illustrated repeatedly with terms like “synergy.” My professor, Dr. Kerry Sauley, even defines management itself as “the art and science of getting things done through other people.” I can definitely see why his course is a prerequisite for all public relations students!

I’ve always been an extremely independent person, especially in academics. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy working with other people, but working on my own is what I’m accustomed to and comfortable with. In my Manship School experience, however, I’ve come to realize the effects of lifelong self-sufficiency as well as the importance of cooperation. I tend to be a very detail-oriented workaholic who likes to get things done quickly and efficiently. These qualities constitute the nature of independent work – and consequently, the challenges of transitioning to group work.

But in my Media Management class last semester, I had two important experiences that have helped me in this project. First, I participated in a similar group service-learning project for a nonprofit organization (Louisiana Public Broadcasting). Second, 225 Magazine publisher and motivational speaker Julio Melara guest-lectured our class and imparted countless inspiring quotes, including “Teamwork makes the dream work!”

I’m undergoing a personal transformation that began through these previous classes’ group projects – a process that will continue through this SCVNGR project and my capstone public relations campaign class, culminating into my everyday life as a public relations professional.

I, Kelly Hotard, am learning to let go of things I can’t control and be more patient and trusting of other people. I’ve realized just how easily I stress, and at first, this project only worsened that quality. But I think in time, it will actually teach me to stress less – or at least stress over the right things.

I think this project will make me a better person. And that, to me, is a major goal of service-learning. But more on that in my next blog!

For now, keep up with me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Thanks for reading, y’all!

– Kelly

Introducing PRservingBR! Wednesday, Feb 29 2012 

Hello again, my “rabid readers,” as journalist Rita Skeeter of the Harry Potter series would say. (I told you I’d make occasional references to my cultural obsessions!)

If you visited my blog when I first created it, you’ve probably noticed I did some “remodeling:” I’ve extended the title and theme of my first entry, “First Impressions,” to my entire blog. So, all entries from here on out will have some tie to that idea.

Why? First, I really wanted a more creative blog title than just my name, so I took a note from many of the Public Relations Student Society of America‘s student-run firms (including LSU’s own PRestige), which often choose titles that highlight the letters “PR” in their names. It’s a pretty cool idea, and imitation, as the adage goes, is the sincerest form of flattery!

Secondly, this particular phrase seems fitting, as I’m only in my second semester as a public relations major – that’s right! Yours truly spent the first two years of her career here at LSU in the print journalism curriculum. So I guess I’m still forming my “im[PR]essions” (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) of the public relations field. And I’m constantly discovering new, fascinating aspects of my career path, which I hope to explore in future blog entries.

Oh, and speaking of “discovering” new things: The “First Im[PR]essions” theme has a bit more relevance to our public relations writing class campaign, “Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR,” which I mentioned in my first blog. It’s all about changing first impressions of Louisiana’s capital city and learning about its various hidden treasures!

Our “firm” for this campaign is called PRservingBR, and I must say I’m really proud of the team effort and creativity behind the naming decision. You choose how you want to pronounce it: “P.R. Serving B.R.,” or “Preserving B.R.” – either way reflects our mission of serving and preserving Baton Rouge through public relations. And if we work this well on something as simple as a name, I’m really excited to see what we can come up with for the rest of our campaign!

My “firm partners” and I have been hard at work perfecting our proposal materials to present to our target clients, which we will hopefully have secured by next week! I can’t wait to meet them – but more importantly, I can’t wait for YOU to meet them!

For now, I’d like to introduce you to the members of PRservingBR:

Karsten Davis – Account Liaison
Linden Uter – Strategy Co-Director
Emilee Margiotta – Strategy Co-Director
Sarah Voelkel – Design Director
And of course me, Kelly Hotard  – Writing Director!

Until the “big reveal” in my next blog post, here’s a (hopefully) tantalizing description of what our “Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR” campaign will be!

– Kelly

P.S. As always, feel free to connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn!

First Impressions Tuesday, Feb 7 2012 

I'm Kelly, a public relations senior at LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication!

Greetings, dear reader(s)!

In my first blog for Dr. Jensen Moore’s public relations writing class, I’d like to ruminate on a phrase I’ve heard over and over since at least junior high: “First impressions are everything.”

The importance of appearance can’t be denied – in both our personal and professional interactions, image counts. When meeting someone new or heading into a job interview, we will judge and be judged primarily on looks.

In public relations, the emphasis on image is drilled into us even deeper. We are taught some basic tenets:
1) Our clients’ livelihoods depend on the cultivation and maintenance of image-based relationships.
2) Image pertains to more than just a client’s visual or physical aesthetics – image is a living, evolving entity, existent in everything a person or organization says and does.
3) According to the court of public opinion, whose verdict carries more weight than ever before, everything is exactly what it seems. The image is the reality.

But what’s happening to our society’s image-based appraisal system today? No longer can we expect someone’s first encounter with us to be face-to-face. And if we don’t know the moment someone first “meets” us, we have less control over our first impression on that person. More and more, we are being judged initially not on our physical appearance, but our digital appearance. And these judges won’t just critique how pretty our profile is – they’ll dig deeper into our actual behaviors, virtually analyzing our every click.

For every person who insists “first impressions are everything,” someone will probably retort the infamous “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” But unfair as it may seem, our online activities are basically public performances to those who care enough to watch.

Are first impressions still “everything” in the 21st century, even if they are less accurate and comprehensive than ever before? Probably not. But again, our image isn’t just how we look in person or even online – it’s manifested in everything we say and do.

So let’s continuously groom that image – in every sense and context. If the first several weeks of our public relations class focused on revamping our social media profiles, they must be important.

– Kelly

P.S. – To learn more about who I am, connect with me on:

To get a “preview of coming attractions” and more information on what I’ll be blogging about this semester, check out: