My relaxation bender!

I have to be honest, at the ripe old age of 22 I had never been on a relaxation bender, until now. Even when on holiday I’m always doing something or going somewhere, I never actually stop and just relax. So after the last five months of slogging my guts out day after day in the library, not so many all-nighters as I tend to fall asleep but many early starts, the work load has finally eased off. And in the last week I decided to go on a relaxation bender. I didn’t really make a conscious decision to do this, it sort of just happened and I’m not complaining. The joys of being a student! From here on in I’m basically going to tell you how awesome my week has been, buckle up.

The last week has been absolutely glorious; I’ve caught up on sleep, watched multiple movies, eaten myself out of house and home and laughed until I cried. I bet you’re green with envy right now; I would be if I wasn’t me.

This time last week I was at home excitedly awaiting the arrival of my cousin over from NYC (my favourite place in the world). Great food was eaten, delicious wine was consumed and tales of my father’s childhood in the West of Ireland were told. I love when family comes to visit!

Sadly I was then torn away from the parents nest, returning to the student house in Cheltenham. Not to worry, a relaxing evening with the girls was thoroughly enjoyed and was swiftly followed by a day of pampering to ready ourselves for our final summer ball at the one and only Cheltenham Racecourse. It was an incredible night followed by a just as incredible duvet day – believe it or not it was my first one, EVER!

Dolled up and ready to party!!

And the laziness of this duvet day managed to seep into the rest of my week. I’ve slept in late (9am), I’ve sat talking for hours about meaningless things, I watched day time TV (slightly embarrassed) and I’ve painted my nails way too many time. And the highlight of my week, bar the cousins’ visit and the summer ball has to be the two trips to the cinema within 24 hours. The joys of having a housemate who works at Cineworld.

I’d forgotten how much I love the cinema. Noting beats stuffing your face full of popcorn, sweets and fizzy pop even though you’re neither hungry nor thirsty, and it’s all in the name of film, 3D film that is. To be honest I’m yet to jump on this bandwagon, I find the adverts before the film tend to be more 3D than the film itself. A severe disappointment to say the least.

My issues with 3D cinema aside on Tuesday evening I marched into the cinema suited and booted in my finest 3D glasses to indulge in a little action hero drama, that’s right, I went to see The Avengers. What girl wouldn’t love to watch the beautiful specimens named Iron Man, Thor, Captain American and let’s throw in the Hulk fight the evils of another galaxy to save the world – but really it’s only ever New York that gets attacked. From a chick flick connoisseur, that film was pretty epic.

And then yesterday I once again graced Cineworld with my presence to attend the first screening of American Pie Reunion. When the original American Pie hit the screens back in 1999 I was only ten years old, thirteen years later I’m all caught up on the action. American Pie Reunion had me in stiches from start to finish, I award it a whopping 10/10, it deserves a gold star for being so awesome.

Gold stars all the way!

My evening and relaxation bender didn’t stop there; I rounded off cooking dinner with the girls and renting a Chris Evans spectacular – What’s your number?  If you need a good laugh this is the film for you. So there you have it, my first relaxation bender was truly wonderful and rest assure it will not be my last.


Where to go from here…

The dissertation is finished, bound, and handed-in. (Monitoring, measurement and evaluation – email me if you’d like to have a read.) The celebrations have taken place, as has the horrendous hangover. No matter how good the wine is I must remember too much will ALWAYS cause a headache.

Since the big hand-in a huge presentation has been completed, more celebrations have taken place and great results have been achieved. All in all everything is going swimmingly. In the next sixteen days all I have left to do is finish my global project (GlobCom) and sit an exam, and for some reason I don’t seem to be pulling my hair out. Bazaar. And just so you’re totally in the picture, all of this will no doubt be swiftly followed with some more celebrating, this time with the lecturers – @DavidGHPhillips@FelicityRead and Bern Wakefield (@CotswoldWalks).

Celebration time!!

My reason for telling you this is to justify why my blog has been so severely neglected in the last couple of months. Alas the pressure of university life is slowly easing off which means plenty more time for me to blog my heart out. You lucky things!

The countdown is now on and university life will be coming to an end in the coming weeks and the closer it gets the more anxious I become. Real life is just around the corner and I’ve come to realise I have been wishing my life away the past eight months, impatiently willing it all to end so I can get back to gaining experience, earning money, having a social life, seeing friends and basically living. What I didn’t realise is that as stressful as this final year has been, grey hairs and wrinkles included, it’s nothing compared to what I’ll be experiencing throughout my career in years to come. The penny finally dropped – uni life is a doddle, the best years of your life, it’s time to make the most of what’s left of it.

The end of May will bring tears of joy and sadness, in bucket loads. I’ll be moving home, back into my parents beautiful house where it’s never dirty and the fridge is always fully stocked and there’s a crazy dog who provides on demand entertainment 24/7. However all of this doesn’t come without a price, with a heavy heart I’ll be leaving behind some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. I make it sound as if we’ll never see each other again, but when you live like myself, @Laurenstoodley and @MeganWeavers do, not seeing each other every day is pretty much like losing a limb. Such bitter sweet moments lie ahead but I know there is a great summer waiting to begin.

So what do I have lined up for myself this summer… Sadly as a penniless student no lavish holidays are on the cards. My dreams of a return trip to New York or Los Angeles will have to wait. Despite not fleeing the country my summer will be far from boring, I will be volunteering at the 2012 London Olympics in the Press Office. That’s right, I, Laura O’Brien am a Games Maker.

London 2012 Games Makers

The shifts are not doubt going to be long, the work will be hard but the experience will be nothing short of incredible, I cannot wait to be part of the team that’s making the 2012 Olympics possible. Sitting in Wembley Area at the first orientation meeting really made the enormity of the project come to life and my media training has prepared me for the what might happen moments. I’m really to roll my selves up and gain some invaluable experience.

Post-Olympic press office success real life will no doubt have to start. Where this is starting I’m yet to figure out…

How do you measure PR?

I’m writing an essay at the moment, it’s actually a case study analysis. I’m ‘critically’ analysing the success of a campaign, focusing on the implementation of tactics, the results achieved and how it was all monitored, measured and evaluated.

Monitoring, measurement and evaluation of PR activity is a hot topic right now. Going out into the industry this year it’s a must that graduates understand how to use social media, and more importantly how to measure it. We’ll be offering companies a wealth of knowledge they simply cannot live without.

The campaign I’m writing about was very successful in meeting the objectives with rather impressive results, and succeeded in changing the brandface of a much loved UK company for the better. The way some of the results were monitored was through the use of Cision. Cision software is one of the best monitoring and measurement tools available, my personal experience with it has been positive and it delivered tangible results in a neat dashboard. However the results provided from this campaign shows little indication that Cision was used to its full potential. Using the dreaded AVE’s, press clippings, circulation figures, sales and the increase in followers and fans was as deep as it got, this was all through volumes, not the interest gained. It does not demonstrate influence.

The use of online and more specifically social media in PR campaigns has changed clients expectations; people want to see solid results in money terms to be able to fully understand the value of PR. There are now many tools available which attempt to do exactly that.

Social Mention is a free search and analysis platform that uses user generated content to create a dashboard of information from across the web in real-time. The dashboard includes information on sentiment of mentions, your passion score which is ‘a measure of the likelihood that individuals talking about your brand will do so repeatedly.’ The reach and influence of the mentions using keywords and ‘a very simple calculation is used: phrase mentions within the last 24 hours divided by total possible mentions.’

A free tool which is Twitter specific is Twendz, it’s a Twitter trend analysis tool that measures real-time sentiment. There is a history bar chart which is useful to be able to provide sentiment snapshots.

How Sociable is a free tool which could be used in conjunction with others, e.g. Twendz. How Sociable provides a basic way to measure impact on the internet, the scores provide information based on your search term, measuring activity levels on up to 36 popular websites.

Monitoring and measuring in real time ensures you react faster to comments and this will increase levels of trust in your online community. Using tools such as these increases the depth of knowledge surrounding the brand and is one step closer to providing a measurable value of PR activity.


What’s going to make me ditch my beloved iPhone?

Hi my name’s Laura… ‘Hi Laura’

I’m an iPhone user.

I’ve been hooked for the last 12 months.

No matter what you do I’m never giving it up, well this is until something better comes along!

What do I mean by better you ask, well for me there are five things I would like my phone to be able to now that it currently cannot, they are:

1. Personalised background display – I’d like my home screen to utilise memory of data I’ve used and personalise it to my usage. E.g. having an information bar running across the bottom of the screen with top news from my most visited sites. Tabs for the people I call the most, and games and app used daily.

2. Increased camera technology – I’m camera-snappy 24/7 and my phone doesn’t support these photo taking urges the way I’d like it to. I would love it if I could take photos and the quality would be like that of an SLR camera. And I’d be able to upload it to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ with just one click.

3. 3D Screens – This is probably already been done and it just hasn’t made it into the market in the UK yet, but how awesome would that be. I can’t think of anything better than watching Toy Story in 3D on my phone.

4. Increased battery life – As previously mentioned I’m addicted to my phone, be it checking emails, texting, viewing a webpage, playing a game, checking my items on eBay or updating my Facebook status, my phone is literally on all the time. My phone can’t currently hand my needs and one day it will, fingers crossed.

5. Telepathic tendencies – It’s a long shot but what would be amazing is if I could simply think of a song and my phone would just play it. Wishful thinking I know, but one day this could really happen! This could be applied to making calls and texting too, just think and type, think and dial. Incredible!

One day this will all be possible, I can feel it in my bones. How it will become possible is a whole other conversation. With the genius Steve Jobs deceased the question on my mind is will Apple be as innovative and ground-breaking as they’ve always been or will this lead to a total game changer and see the likes of Samsung on top?

Since the release of the Galaxy Nexus I’ve had people question my loyalty to my reliable and well-dressed sidekick, iPhone 4. And to be totally honest it is a little tempting to jump ship and here’s why:

– The Galaxy Nexus was the first ever device run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It has 5-megapixel camera capabilities of 1080p video capture – this makes me very happy.

– It comes with 32-gigabytes of built-in storage with a microSD slot that can add another 32-gigabytes – that’s a whole lot of memory.

– It provides the ability to unlock the device with facial recognition – wow!

Even after reading that I have to say, in my humble opinion Apple is going to stay on top for the foreseeable future. Why? Because of their bullet proof brand identity, the sense of loyalty they have instilled in their customers, the relationship they have created with consumer and trade press, their ability to change the face on an industry with one product and their desire to be the most innovative technology provider ever known.


‘Snow Plan’ you say, please tell me more…

Unless you live under a rock you will have heard about the snowfall the country dealt with over the weekend, in some places it fell hard and fast and caused widespread disruption. I’m currently living in Cheltenham seeing out the last few months of my degree and here we simply had a light dusting of snow followed by a night of rainfall so I woke on Sunday morning to clear roads, much to my dismay. Not.

This time last year when we had slightly more than a dusting of snow that brought the country to a halt, I was on my work placement, travelling from Hertfordshire to London Bridge on the ever so reliable London Underground. I remember standing at the station in the morning shivering uncontrollably after trudging through the woods to find out I had a 45 minute wait in the freezing temperatures at 7am. Not impressed! What I wanted in that moment, aside from my bed and a hot chocolate was information, I wanted to know when the next train was coming, would I actually be able to get on it, how long will that service take to get to Baker Street, will I get to work before midday? I had all these questions and no answers, and the frustration was mounting. As well as TFL being slated for their lack of communication during the extreme weather conditions so were the airports, airlines, road safety and every other form of transport that messed up our days. Snow seems to have this damaging effect on the UK, it brings everything to a halt.  No one goes anywhere. Why?

I was in New Zealand last summer, at the time of booking my tickets I was unaware I was swapping my scorching hot British summer for below freezing temperatures. I made do and turned out to be one of the best adventures of my life (so far), my point of all this is that I was travelling on a coach on the south island where the driver had to manoeuvre this vehicle around mountain tops in deep snow. Granted I  feared for my life but if they can do that on a mountain top why can’t we get our 4×4’s on the M25 without a worry.

View from Coronet Peak, Queenstown, NZ.

I was in Queenstown during the snowstorm last summer that the whole world heard about, it was the first time they had seen snow in the town for over 15 years. And after one day of nothing coming in or going out of the town they were over it, the mountains were opened and it was back to business as usual and I was heading up to the slopes for my first ever snowboarding experience, and to get there the snow chains went on. Once again my stomach was in my mouth as we eased our way up the side of the mountain, and once again I sat there thinking if a big old bus can climb up the side of a mountain why can’t cars climb the hills in High Wycombe?!

We’re ill-equipped to deal with weather extremes and more importantly communicating when these weather extremes hit. Preparations and communication seem to be the key in these situations, and granted you can’t always prepare for an ash cloud, but that is where crisis communication plans come into play. Using an agency to help plan for these kinds of events is an integral part of forward planning and reducing the risk of being unprepared in high pressure situations.

The ones who get hit the worst with angry complaints and negative headlines at times like these are the airports and airlines, they have been criticised on numerous occasions for their lack of communication and engagement and the weekend just gone is no exception.

BAA airport operator was both praised and criticised for their communication and ‘snow plan’ this past weekend, they cancelled flights ahead of the snowfall and reacted well to the circumstances. Passengers were informed in good time, minimising disruption and confusion and the need for them to take to the internet to complain and voice opinions about the terrible service.

The use of social media in times like this can have a great impact on how the airline or airport authority is viewed during the situation and at a later date. Heathrow used their twitter feed to communicate constant weather and travel updates and were responding to individual requests for specific information. Using this channel as a way of communicating  reduces the number of people needing to call and email direct and it also satisfies audiences need to receive information on a 24/7 basis.

It has become apparent through the different tragedies and natural disasters that have taken place in the last 12 years that the audiences need to be informed has grown stronger year on year. News has become a 24/7 necessity which can be accessed via a number of platforms, it has become this desperate need to be kept in the loop has become even stronger since social media has given us a more connected world.

So I guess there are a few points to take away from this blog:

1. The UK does need deal with extreme weather conditions at all – we’re all slowly coming to terms with this fact!

2. Crisis planning is a must – communication is the key to maintaining good relationships with you audience/customers. So even if BAA and Heathrow aren’t able to get flights off the ground at least they can tell people to stay at home until they can.

3. New Zealand is awesome so take a trip there if you can.


I’m nearly finished here… What’s next?

I’m a final year public relations student, I have a successful placement year under my belt, I’m writing my dissertation on an industry hot topic and I’m aiming for a 2.1 in my degree and quite frankly I’m a barrel of laughs. – Sounds OK right?

So when I’ve achieved what I want to in a few months time, what comes next? I keep reading online and in newspapers that job prospects for graduates this year are abysmal (way to fill us with confidence!), it makes me want to flee the country and become a zumba instructor in Iceland. (I have no co-ordination so i’m not sure that would work out for me, plus I very much dislike being cold.)

There are so many students that will graduate this year with a degree and a placement much like myself, so how do employers decide who they want to see for an interview? They ask for you to send your CV with a covering letter stating why you want to work for them. Why not ask ‘Why do you want to work in the PR industry?’ Surely that’s makes for a much more interesting read – hearing why that individual is so passionate about the PR industry and the prospect of working in it instead of just writing about how amazing your company is?

I sent off a job application last week where they asked ‘What can you offer us that no other graduate can?’ Or something along those lines. What do you say to that? We all have placements, we all have some other work experience on the side, we all have Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, we’re all determined and ambitious individuals. So what made me different? – My awesome lunches! That’s right I told a potential employer that they should hire me because they will be in awe of my lunches everyday for the foreseeable future. Was that a bad move? Personally I don’t think so, you have to interject some personality in there somewhere otherwise you’re just the same as every other Tom, Dick or Harry who hits send when they’re done typing.

The hardest part of the job application process for me is getting all of ‘me’ on paper without being way too friendly or over expressing how I feel. I want to talk about my degree, my work experience, my short and sweet travelling trip to the other side of the world, I can never seem to fit it all on one page. But take me off the paper, put me in a pencil skirt, a nice flowery top, blazer and a killer pair of black heels, sit me opposite you in the conference room and ask me to tell you about me. Sure thing. I’ll tell you about my passions, my loves in life (penguins), my ambitions and why I want to be sat at a desk in your office. That my friend I can do.

So we’re back at the beginning, what is next for me? I see a job working in the PR industry, preferably for a successful PR agency (London based) who love to have a few nutty personalities in the office, and who has some awesome consumer clients who want to hear all my wacky  ideas. Eventually I’ll move into the city so I can really embrace the PR lifestyle the Sex and the City girls have made me fall in love with. (Joke-ish – I do love the Manolos though!) And if that doesn’t work out, well I guess I’ll be moving to Iceland!


Augmented Reality – Do you know what it is?

To be honest I didn’t until an hour ago, but now I have a fair idea.

According to ‘augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.’

So… Augmented reality has become one of the latest technologies (still emerging) available to allow you to enhance the customers experience of your product or service. With the invention of smartphones augmented reality applications have grown in number dramatically, even ‘Joe Bloggs’ is able to design and create his own augmented reality app these days.  Some apps that demonstrate great use of augmented reality are navigation apps, the ones that help you find the nearest tube station, tell you where you are and how to get to your destination. We all use them, I know I have and all without realising how much time, effort and great use of technology went into aiding me in getting to my destination from my very lost current location.

So what does it mean for organisations and brands – well merging reality with computer generated graphics has enabled them to offer improved brand interaction on a whole new level, this could be with a webcam or a smartphone. Another example of this is when you can put yourself into a virtual dressing room, I remember only a year ago brainstorming with the team at the lorries discussing such things and now it’s a reality.

Augemneted reality is going to change the way we do a lot of everyday tasks, and in my opinion this is most definitely for the better.


Online presence – How important is it?

Everyone loves to jump on the social media bandwagon but they don’t always know how to monitor efficiently. Rookie error! If you’re looking to increase your online footprint, great! But first you must know how to monitor and analyse the impact of what you’re saying and what others are saying about you. There are many free and paid for tools and services available to help you keep on top of this.

Before enlisting some of these tools you must first conduct your own social media audit, reviewing  your current online presence. This will include websites, social networks and your search engine optimisation. This process should be pretty simple and easy to do, and once you’ve completed it, it will then be time to go a step further and choose the monitoring tool(s) you wish to use.

Here is a selection of online tools which can help with your audit:

Alexa – is one of the better online monitoring tools available. You create a dashboard where you can add your clients websites and recieve daily/weekly reports. The reports cover site traffic, social media interactions, search engine optimisation and contact information. Alexa also offers competitor monitoring which is great when reviewing where you are in the marker place.

Woorank – a free tool which provides you with an analysis of your clients website(s). You enter the client’s website URL and Woorank will provide data on SEO rating, popular pages, site visitors and much more. This tool provides you with insight into whether your website is performing well and even tells you how you can improve in certain areas.

Google Alerts – a free, easy to use tool that notifies you via email. This is a great tool for monitoring particular keywords or phrases, I used it whilst working on a product launch and during trade shows and it proved very useful.

Some other tools worth checking out are trendrr, howsociable, and Google trends.

Aside from these tools there are other ways of  of monitoring social media. Maria Ogneva, Head of Community at Yammer has devised ’10 Steps for Successful Social Media Monitoring’ which she implements on a regular basis when  listening, participating and contributing to the space.

1. Define an objective – have a clear goal in mind

2. Decide Where to Monitor – where you monitor should be driven by where your constituency hangs out. Figuring out where to monitor will help decipher what channels are best for listening and engaging.

3. Decide What to Monitor – tracking keywords is very important e.g.  company name, brand names, product names, competitor names, competitive product names and industry keywords.

4. Prioritise – triaging is very important, deciding the order in which to listen to messages based on importance. Separating messages into groups can also be useful.

5. Develop a Plan – crisis management plans as well as engagement plans are critical to successful online engagement.

6. Involve others – social media is the fastest moving form of communication we’ve ever had, the challenge is to respond to tweets, comments, etc. as quickly as possible with the message coming from the correct person within the company. Having a system in place to do this is a must.

7. Listen First – before you ever open your digital mouth, listen and observe the culture of the community. Before contributing you need to know the members, stakeholders, and community norms.

8. Inbound vs. Outbound Conversations – knowing when and how to share information is important. Outbound is pro-actively participating in discussions whereas inbound means people are talking to you about specific end goals. Both have distinctive rules of engagement, knowing what’s appropriate comes after listening and simply using common sense.

9. Build Relationships – following on from #7, amke sure you’re forming relationships with the thought leasers around you – identify influencers and conversation drivers. Grow and nurture the relationships and soon you will be a resource for others. The true definition of influence is when you don’t even have to ask others to do that.

10. Select Tools that Match your Strategy –  your checklist of what you need in a tool is going to be largely driven by your purpose definition in step #1, you need to know where you are heading and why.

So after reading my blog, doing an initial social media audit, implementing Maria’s steps and enlisting one or more online monitoring tools you will have covered most bases online. So just think first the internet and then the world!


Infographics Take Two!

My first attempt at infographics wasn’t too impressive so following a suggestion from a lecturer I’ve taken another shot at it,  and I have to say I’m definitely a lot happier with these ones. The information in the infographics is a list i’ve put together of what you need to prepare for a PR pitch.

I used and to design two infographics using the same information, yet they turned out totally different. Take a look…

The first one was produced using Wordle, a very easy tool to use and it puts your information out in there in a visually attractive format. The drawback of this tool is that you can’t include phrases and there’s no structure to the way the words are displayed which means you would most probably have to explain the infographic.

Gliffy on the other hand is a slightly more complicated tool, the infographics it produces are more like charts and aren’t as visually appealing. It did however give me the chance to demonstrate the process in which you plan a PR brief/pitch.

So have my infographics educated you in any way?


Infographics: Not as easy as they look

I’ve never been the most technically minded person in the world, so when I was tasked with the job of creating an infographic I didn’t know where to start. Lucky for me there is Google, and with the click of a button I was presented with many blogs rating the top 10 awesome free tools to make infographics. After much deliberation I went with Many Eyes, the tool that allows you to upload your own data and transform it into ‘visualisations’. The visualisations available range from bubble charts to scatter diagrams and world maps, they are easy to use and present the information in a clear concise way – what more could you ask for? Below is my attempt at an infographic, it represents social media usage across the most popular channels in the UK…


It has to be said that this isn’t the most appealing infographic out there, there are so many more which represent this information in a much more visually entertaining way.  Here’s an examples:


Infographics have been around since 7500 BC and have developed and evolved over time into the digitally designed graphics that we all recognise today. The purpose of infographics is to present complex information in an easy to read clear format, this could explain why there is an abundance of them in the media. Magazines, newspapers and bloggers use them to make what they’re saying that little bit more interesting, break up the text and fill the white space, PR professionals are also using them when presenting results or demographics in reports or presentations.

Infographics is a versatile tool to use, one that can be understood globally and enjoyed by many. So fingers crossed with a bit more practice I’ll be a pro at designing them and I can start posting them all over the place!