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TODD SMITH’s SPIN CYCLE: Pulitzer winner left journalism for public relations

TODD SMITH

TODD SMITH

The Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier took home a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism recently for “Till Death Do Us Part,” its series on domestic violence in South Carolina. One of the reporters on the team that wrote the series, Natalie Caula Hauff, is no longer working for the paper. She left in August 2014 to work as the media relations coordinator for Charleston County government.

Previously a TV reporter with ABC News 4, Hauff joined the P&C in September 2012 and quickly established herself as a hard-hitting crime reporter with pieces including a May 2013 feature on how law enforcement agents brought down an Eastside heroin distribution ring. Hauff co-authored “Till Death” with Jennifer Berry Hawes, Doug Pardue, and Glenn Smith, a dream team of some of South Carolina’s best news reporters, and the series has forced state lawmakers to take up domestic violence policy reform as a hot-button issue in the current legislative session.

Hauff jumped the fence to PR in large part for a more lucrative future that offered a more consistent schedule.

It’s no secret that public-relations jobs tend to pay better than journalism jobs. The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a nearly $20,000 gap in mean salary. But Hauff said her move wasn’t strictly a financial decision.

Hauff’s move to public relations was hardly unprecedented at the Post and Courier (or in the industry as a whole). Former P&C Multimedia Editor Sarah Bates left the paper to work as a media relations coordinator for the Medical University of South Carolina in 2011. Metro Editor Andy Lyons left in 2013 to work as director of corporate communications at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. Education reporter Diette Courrégé Casey left in 2014 to work as a communications strategist for Roper St. Francis.

Hauff, for her part, isn’t making the same kinds of complaints. She recently traveled to New York with the P&C to accept a Polk Award for “Till Death,” and she says she spent some time at the newspaper office celebrating with her old team. “They were fantastic about it, and everyone hugged me and told me how much they missed me, and it was such an amazing moment to share with them,” Hauff says.

10 Ways To Build Your Brand & Pump Personality Into Your Social

A critical mass of brands, businesses, marketers, and corporate executives may have a presence on social media today, but that doesn’t mean they have a clue what they’re doing on these online communication channels.

Many of them seem at a loss on how to strike a happy medium with both their content and cadence, missing countless opportunities to connect with their constituents and earn their unconditional support.

Of course, being creative, entertaining, and informative can go a long way toward helping you build a big audience on social media, but simply being yourself may be the easiest way to score points.

Here are 10 ways from Mashable to humanize your social media brand and win over the public on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more:

1. Don’t be a stranger

Don’t hide behind a corporate logo and post in anonymity. Let your audience know there are real people behind the scenes. Put a collective face on your brand by introducing yourself and your team.

2. Talk in the first person

Your social media accounts are run by human beings, not logos. So talk that way. Refer to your brand in the first person – the collective “we,” or if you’re your own boss, “I,” – not the name of your company. Be available, responsive, and conversational. If you personify the qualities you admire in a best friend, you’ll not only spark more meaningful engagement, you’ll build a lot of trust.

3. Avoid corporate speak

Forget the buzzwords and jargon. You don’t have to impress anyone with your vocabulary. This is your chance to come across as the colleague next door, someone who’s as down to earth as they come.

4. Address others by name

Whether you have space limitations or not, heed what Dale Carnegie wrote in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Don’t cut characters at the expense of the sound your fans, followers, and friends want to hear.

5. Share content in real time

Most of us schedule at least some of our posts in advance using automation tools. That’s how we maintain a consistent, ongoing presence across the social landscape. But planned content shouldn’t make up the majority of your stream. The more spontaneous you can be, the more props you will earn for your timeliness and authenticity.

6. Show and tell

As a writer, I hate to admit this, but even the best-written content can’t always capture the right tone of voice. Personality, mood, context – none of that’s easy to get across in words alone. Pictures of whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, are more realistic, intimate, and explanatory. Video is even better!

7. Have a sense of humor

Remember, laughter is the best medicine for a lot of things, including a business that’s stuck in a rut on social media.

8. Help others

You may think it’s old-fashioned, but don’t forget the golden rule. There’s a lot to be said for doing good. Give someone your attention and you’ll get his or hers in return. Provide them with your assistance and they’ll be grateful forever. This will be taken as a sincere form of flattery and go a long way toward showing them you’re genuinely paying attention as opposed to simply automating your feed.

9. Listen and learn

Not everyone realizes you don’t have to say a thing on social media to reap some of the benefits of it. You can’t empathize with your constituents if you don’t understand them. Monitor what people are saying about you and your brand. Keep an ear to the ground and take feedback seriously. Hang on the words of others and you’ll learn a ton. Respond in kind to them and not only will they put you on their radar, they’ll be thankful for the attention and likely reciprocate.

10. Admit mistakes

When all is said and done, don’t forget that to err is human. Not that you want to make any mistakes. Of course not. But if they’re honest, harmless blunders and goofs, you shouldn’t have to lose any sleep about them. Spelling, punctuation, good grammar, and accuracy are of utmost importance. There are no excuses for inattention to detail. But if you drop the ball rarely, not regularly, most people will be quick to forgive you if they even notice at all.

Melted Mic | Popular Ice Cream Brands Blue Bell & Jeni’s Shut Down 

Major recalls from two well-known ice cream companies due to the discovery of listeria bacteria raise questions about how the pathogen could have contaminated multiple ice cream manufacturing plants – and whether the discoveries are related.

Blue Bell Creameries of Texas and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams of Ohio – extremely popular brands nationwide – took all their products off shelves recently. Blue Bell ice cream is linked to 10 illnesses in four states, including three deaths. There are no known illnesses linked to the Jeni’s recall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recalls are unusual: Listeria is rarely found in ice cream because it can’t grow at freezing temperatures. Both companies are in the midst of damage control and reputation repair – but most importantly ensuring the health safety of consumers. The Spin Cycle loves both of these delectable dairy dynamos, and hopes to see a swift – and healthy — resolution to this frightening, frigid situation. Let’s hope these stalwart brands churn up a healthy solution before its reputation melts further.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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