Burned out from corporate culture, Tamaryn Tobian started Spectacle Creative Media in 2011. At that time, she knew that she wanted to use her creative talents and knowledge of public relations, advertising, and marketing to serve an emerging independent film industry in Michigan. Tobian graduated college as Facebook was going to market and before Twitter hatched. After making the decision to leave her big-box corporate advertising and marketing job, she started picking up more freelance and PR clients.
Tobian wanted to work with content creators, and she knew that if she was going to work in PR, then she was going to do it on her terms. It was important to her to create a healthy work/life balance that allows her to take on projects and clients that she was truly passionate about while also creating an in which she and others can grow and thrive.
Today, Spectacle Creative Media has become a known PR and brand strategy firm in Grand Rapids. They help filmmakers, distributors, entertainment & tech companies, authors, publishers, small businesses, and nonprofits discover their spark. The team at Spectacle is made up of storytellers, dreamers, strategy makers, and action takers. They include:
Spectacle Creative Media offers a variety of services including unit publicity for films, film distribution publicity, media training workshops, traditional public relations and advertising solutions. Spectacle has worked with a range of clients including, the upcoming faith-based film, God Bless the Broken Road, Joel Potrykus’ 2014 SXSW world premiere film, BUZZARD, Chicago nonprofit WomenOnCall, CineScout, SetHero, Stage32, Joseph Scott Anthony, Ralph Lister, Sheri Beth Dusek, and more. Tobian is also helping to organize the Grand Rapids Film Society, whose mission it is to create a thriving film culture around independent, documentary and world cinema in Grand Rapids.
We asked Tobian what advice she has for students starting out in the PR field, “I think it’s important for students to be versed in many of content creation. The days of just issuing a press release are over,” she says. “A fresh face in PR should know how to write—extremely well and creatively—add copy writing and creative writing to your class load. And if you have room, photography, video editing or design class (or two). PR is ever-changing, and as visual content continues to grow in importance, it’s important to be well rounded and know how to style online content and have an eye for design. Being multi-skilled, especially in a small firm, is required. But most importantly, be willing to keep learning. As media and business models at outlets continue to shift, even seasoned pros are having to hone up on new skill sets.
We also asked Tobian what she looks for in potential employees and interns. “I look for people who aren’t afraid of jumping in—those who embrace hard work and who are excited with no two days being the same. One week our team may be on a film set, another we may be with a client at a film festival and still another we may be updating boring spreadsheets—you have to be excited about all of it,” says Tobian.
Cultures and customs differ around the world. It’s best to know of and be prepared for what may be different while traveling and working with people from different places. Understanding global public relations can be extremely useful and is necessary in the field.
On Monday, February 13 in Loosemore Auditorium, the winter 2017 semester APR Speaker Series presented global public relations consultant, professor, and author of her book: “Pitch, Tweet or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication”, Kara Alaimo.
Alaimo’s presentation consisted of her talking the audience through factors about cultural clusters around the world and how to adapt public relations messages, strategies, and tactics to these differences. The cultural groups included Confucian Asia, South Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Anglo Europe, Latin Europe, Germanic Europe, Nordic Europe, and Eastern Europe.
As she spoke about each group, Alaimo outlined aspects from them that are specific to the culture. She stressed that doing something that you normally would from your culture may be perceived differently in another.
Bri Olson, an APR student at GVSU, relates her take away from Alaimo’s presentation about global PR to PRSA’s code of ethics:
“I was most shocked to learn how the Confucianism approach affected Asian culture. From Alaimo’s experience, she realized the Confucianism approach taught citizens and business leaders that talking about a problem makes it worse; so, if you have a problem, don’t tell anyone. This is highly unethical to do in public relations. Our Public Relations Society of America’s code of ethics clearly states the importance of transparency to be an ethical practitioner so this was such a foreign concept for me.”
Olson’s example from Alaimo’s presentation shows that knowing how to adjust to a culture can be very important. Alaimo explained that since the 1990s, International PR professors have been teaching their students the generic/specific theory of international PR – if you are going to practice PR in a new culture you need to think about five things and adapt your strategy:
Extent of activism locally
Level of economic development
Media system (who owns it, media access, and media penetration)
The big picture that students and professionals can take away from this APR Speaker series is that, from the words of Kara Alaimo, “all of us should be prepared to practice public relations globally.”
As graduation approaches, it’s normal for seniors to feel nervous about entering the real world and their success in the future. Juniors, too will be searching for summer internships and building their resumes. I have gathered some great insight from a Grand Valley State alum, Morgan Yingst to calm the winter semester jitters. Although Morgan’s career is in Public Relations, her advice and experiences are applicable to any field.
Morgan holds the Senior Communications Specialist position at the Illinois Supreme Court, where she writes news releases daily in regards to updates on the Court or judicial appointments and vacancies.
Morgan feels that GrandPR has prepared her for her current role. Morgan joined GrandPR when she was a sophomore. She started as an Account Associate, and with a lot of hard work and ambition, she became the CEO. Morgan gained experience writing and sending news releases for GrandPR clients, including the City Lights Music Festival and ArtPrize. Her experience working with different clients with a variety of needs gave her the confidence to send out statewide news releases in her current position. Whether it be in GrandPR or any other organization that you are involved in, step up and take on a new task. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will help develop confidence.
Confidence is essential in Morgan’s workplace, specifically, because she is the youngest on her team. Morgan utilizes her communication skills that she acquired in GrandPR, so she can present herself as knowledgeable and ensure her voice is heard.
Obtaining a position at the Illinois Supreme Court is not an easy task, but Morgan worked at the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the largest voluntary organization for attorneys in Illinois, prior to getting her current job.
People say it’s about who you know when getting a job. This is partially true in Morgan’s case. Her supervisor at the ISBA left to become the Director of Communications for the Illinois Supreme Court. He informed Morgan of the opening, and she seized the opportunity.
It is not uncommon that people enter a career that differs from what they had planned or even studied. However, Morgan always knew she was passionate about writing. At a young age, she entered short stories into local contests and served as an editor for her high school newspaper and yearbook. Morgan had a prior knowledge of public relations going into Grand Valley and declared that as her major at orientation. Morgan indicates “after my first semester of classes, I knew it was the right fit.”
On the other hand, Morgan did not expect to be in a nonprofit or government industry. Throughout her college years, she was convinced she wanted to do corporate communications. Morgan wants to encourage college students to explore various industries, research different organizations, and expand their skill set while they are young. Morgan admits “I’m not an expert in the judicial system, and that’s okay!” Her secret to success is having the courage to ask questions in order to communicate as an expert.
Why earn a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations?
Setting yourself apart from the rest of the career-driven people in your field is important when on the hunt for a job. There is a lot of competition out there, and in the Public Relations field, making sure that you stand out amongst your colleagues is a must. Earning a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations is a great opportunity to build up your resume as a student approaching graduation as well as graduate with an advantage as you venture into your profession.
What exactly is the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations?
The Certificate’s purpose is to help students gain a head start in their individual professional development and differ from their peers. The Certificate tests students’ understanding in the following fundamental concepts: communication models and theories, business literacy, ethics and law, and program research, planning, implementation, and evaluation.
How do you earn the Certificate?
The required preparation course before taking the Certificate Examination used to be only an in-person course, but the UAB and PRSA Educators Academy have recently launched an online study course option that provides an alternative and perhaps more convenient way for students and faculty. The process of earning the Certificate involves four steps:
Complete the application for the Certificate.
Confirm eligibility with a faculty advisor at your university. A student must be within 6 months of (before or after) graduating in order to be eligible for the Certificate.
Complete the Certificate preparatory course or the Principles of Public Relations Online Study Course.
Study for and take the computer-based examination for the Certificate.
GVSU APR students:
If you earn the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, let the GVSU APR Program know! It is a big deal to set yourself apart from the competition and it is an accomplishment that should and will be recognized as you enter your career field and #StandOutInPR.
GVSU Advertising and Public Relations alumna, Katelyn Davis, has recently been appointed as the newest board member of the Automotive Public Relations Council (ARPC).
Davis cites that:
“The APRCis a network of public relations professionals dedicated to the advancement of the automotive industry. It serves as a networking and information resource with the unique focus of finding best practices for promoting the industry and building relationships with the media and OEM customers.”
Davis currently works as the Corporate Affairs and Communications Specialist at Yazaki North America. Here, she oversees all of the internal and external communications including corporate marketing, branding, public relations, social media, and employee communications. Davis joined the ARPC shortly after her career began and was recommended for a seat in the fall, and voted in shortly after.
While studying advertising and public relations at Grand Valley, Davis always knew that she wanted to work in the technology industry. Specifically, she knew she wanted to do work that would help change the world. However, upon graduating in 2010, she found herself searching for a job during a difficult time for the economy. Over the course of a year, she applied for 200 jobs all across the country, but eventually found herself working as a social media recruiter for an automotive supplier. Shortly after, Davis attended an industry event where a speaker discussed the importance of the automotive industry and how there is no other tech industry with as expansive of a reach than automotive.
“He went on to talk about how automotive is one of the world’s largest and oldest global industries,” Davis said. “There isn’t Google in every country and not every person is carrying around an iPhone or Android, but there are vehicles on every continent taking water and supplies to even the most desolate and remote areas of third world countries. This really opened my eyes. I wanted to work in tech. I wanted to change the world. Well here was my chance (in automotive). From then on I set.”
The thing that Davis loves most about working in the corporate PR world is that she gets to be a jack-of-all-trades, not just a PR person. In corporate it is public relations, communications, advertising, event planning, writing, project managing, and everything else all rolled into one.
She encourages APR students to consider getting experience within the automotive field as it is a great opportunity to get hands on with a global industry.
“At the very least, if you decide automotive isn’t for you, you will have had major experience to draw from,” Davis said. “Being able to understand and be a part of a network that spans the world is invaluable experience that can really be applied anywhere.”
Katelyn Davis has been involved with the ARPC for the past five years and continues to do great work within this industry everyday. Congratulations to our APR alumna on this great achievement!
Nicole Tallman, a 1998 graduate of the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations program, had a varied career out of college. She worked at several corporations and in higher education before moving to government public relations. Now she has the unique PR role of a speechwriter in the office of the mayor in Miami-Dade County
PR professionals often write speeches for clients or bosses or co-workers. But to do it full time for a government office is unique. We asked Nicole to share more about her career path and current role, and she graciously obliged.
How did you end up becoming a speechwriter for the mayor in Miami-Dade County?
After graduating from GVSU in 1998, I was fortunate to land a job as a media relations specialist for Haworth. After five years there, I took a role in the Internal Communications Department at Siemens Logistics & Assembly Systems in Grand Rapids. Soon afterwards, I was offered an advancement and relocation opportunity as manager of internal communications and community outreach for Siemens Communications in Boca Raton, Florida. When the majority of that company was bought out by Nokia, I decided to venture out of the corporate world and try something new: higher education. I worked as a ghostwriter/speechwriter, and essentially, the director of internal communications and community engagement, for the president of Miami Dade College. I served in that role for eight years before I was recruited by the Office of the Mayor of Miami-Dade County to serve as his sole speechwriter.
What do you like about speechwriting and focusing on that as compared to all the other forms of public relations work you have done?
My passion has always been writing, and that is the narrative thread in the story of my career. In this day and age, it is rare to get paid well to write all day (and often into the night), and I am very fortunate to have a job that allows me to do what I love and earn a good living.
What I love about speechwriting is getting the opportunity to use all of the tools in my rhetorical toolbox, and seeing the difference that the words that I write really make. There is immense power for good, for change, for education, action and encouragement, in the spoken word … and that power lies in both what is said and what is not said.
As someone who loves verbal and non-verbal communication, writing speeches blends the best of both worlds. Writing a speech involves a love of research, psychology, the art of persuasion, a deep understanding of the audience and message. It involves an open mind, flexibility and ability to work quickly under intense pressure. One must also be relatively egoless. After all, a speechwriter is not writing in his or her voice, but in the voice of the orator. A speechwriter must adopt a persona in a way, take on the role of the person who will deliver the speech and stay true to that person’s voice.
There is also beauty in simplicity with speechwriting, and writing speeches takes a different kind of skill than writing press releases, briefing materials, editorials, marketing pieces or ad copy, for example. You must write in a “natural” way that mimics actual speech patterns, and there is a great emphasis on delivery.
Give us a sense of the types of speeches you write, for what audiences, and with what objective? Discuss the process a little bit in terms of how you work with the mayor during the speechwriting process.
I write an average of two to three speeches every single day (Monday-Sunday). Some of those are massive speeches, like the Mayor’s Annual State of the County Address to residents that highlights accomplishments and shares his vision for the upcoming year. Some of those speeches are short, like welcoming a group of out-of-town guests to special events hosted at one of our County venues, like Miami International Airport or PortMiami.
I write a lot of speeches to keep residents informed about what the Mayor and his administration are doing to improve quality of life in Miami-Dade County. These are speeches on topics like improving public transportation; job creation, economic development and diversification; public safety and youth violence; sea-level rise and climate change; technology; and affordable housing. Miami-Dade County has a diverse community of 2.7 million residents, and more than 60 percent of those residents are foreign-born. As the community continues to grow and change, the Mayor attends quite a lot of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings. The Mayor also speaks on a variety of local and national panels, and often needs talking points and backgrounders prepared for those events.
My interaction with the Mayor really varies based on the type of speaking engagement. I put in a lot of effort during the first six months of my career to learn his likes and dislikes, so I am given quite a lot of autonomy. For major speeches, I often sit down with the Mayor, his Chief of Staff, Director of Communications and various subject-matter experts to gather content and hear what key messages should be communicated. It’s ultimately up to me to take those key messages and turn them into a speech that will resonate with the audience. There is usually very little revision needed because I do my homework upfront. Major speeches are rehearsed with the Mayor, but minor speeches are discussed often minutes before delivery, if at all.
What advice do you have for current students in terms of government PR and speechwriting as a career option?
Read and write as much as you can. Go out and listen to good speakers and bad ones. Watch the body language of the speaker, the tone he or she uses, the speed of words delivered, and even the pauses. All of these are important elements to master. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Above all, study rhetoric and audience analysis, and learn how to write quickly and accurately.
In terms of government, it certainly helps to understand politics, but it’s more important to understand people. A good government speechwriter is in tune with the needs of the people (or residents) the elected official serves, and can communicate the elected official’s message in a way that people understand and relate to.
Add anything else you’d like to share with current students and our professional community who may be interested in speechwriting.
My undergraduate studies in PR at Grand Valley State University were great preparation for my PR career, in combination with my graduate studies in English and Technical Communication at the University of Central Florida. The way we communicate constantly changes, so it’s important to stay on top of communication trends, technology and the evolution of the English language. Never stop learning and improving.
A panel of local professionals joined Grand Valley State University Advertising and Public Relations students on November 3, 2016 in the University Club of DeVos Center to discuss branding. After the panel discussion, students and professionals broke into teams to network and participate in a hands-on branding activity.
The panelists for the evening included Jenna Morton from 616 Development, Rob McCarty from The Image Shoppe, JD Osman from Amway, Julie Sheeran from 834 Design, and Raul Alverez from Getting The Stuff Done Group.
Each panelists brought unique experiences and contributions to the discussion. The first question provoked different answers from each of the panelists by asking them to define what a brand is and what it means to them. Sheeran discussed the difference between visual identity and brand, while encouraging the audience to think about what makes their brand different. She asked the audience, “What do you want people to feel and experience when they pick up your product?”
To answer the same question, Osman walked around and asked students in the audience what their favorite brand was and why. He questioned if it was the product or the values that made this brand their favorite. Alverez and McCarty shared their experiences of working with creatives, as neither Alverez or McCarty do the creative work, but participate in the many more things that go into a brand.
Professor Frank Blossom, who coordinated this event, continued the discussion by asking if brand something different than branding. The panelists agreed that brand is the perception and the promise, where as branding are the activities and the tactics done that create the feeling, logo, color scheme and news releases.
After the panel discussion, time was spent doing a brand development activity for SteadyFare, a local rideshare program that competes with Uber and Lyft. Groups were created and students were given a creative brief, tasked with creating a brand description, position statement, new tagline and communication tactics.
After the activity, each team was given the opportunity to present their ideas and discuss with the large audience. The professionals in attendance seemed to be pleased and impressed with the results, commenting that in the professional world, this work normally takes months, rather than in the minutes that the students accomplished it in.