Update: Congressional Response

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A few months back, I wrote a letter to Erik Paulsen, who serves in the U.S. House of Representatives for Minnesota, and I finally got a response earlier this semester. I was so excited so I had to share!

Here's his response:

photo (8).JPG

So, it looks like I'll be visiting D.C. soon!

Don't forget your manners.

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Contrary to popular belief, NO the interview thank you note is not dead.

Somewhere along the way--in the world of strategic communicators--manners flew out the window and many people today leave an interview thinking they aced it. Yet, they find out later they didn't get the job.

Well, have no fear, the 'thank you note' only takes a few quick steps.

1.) Send the letter out ASAP. Today, thank you letters via email are considered acceptable, but it usually depends on the culture of the company. If the company gives off a modern vibe, then send that email. If they are more traditional, then a written letter is probably a better option.

2.) Be sure to include your contact information. This part is crucial to getting the position because it reinforces another form of contact.

3.) Mention something specific brought up in the interview. This personalizes the letter and sparks a memory of the interview and will help you potentially land the job.

4.) Keep it short and sweet.


Good luck & land that job!


Sell Yourself.

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It has been a few weeks since I interviewed my media profile contact, Colleen Steward Needles, and I cannot get what she said out of my mind.

As an experienced pro, she has seen several different facets of the media from broadcasting to running a media production company. She has not personally worked in the field of public relations. However, she had nothing but great things to say about the industry.

When I asked for her advice, she mentioned the basics that I have been hearing since Day 1...improve your writing, learn to communicate, work hard, etc. Then she said:

"If you can't sell yourself. How do you expect to be able to sell a company?"

These words could not be more true. So many applicants go into an interview telling the interviewer what they have done, and they ask, "So what?" Every interviewee in the industry has done SOMETHING but what makes that person unique over the other candidates?

Have you found that SOMETHING that makes you stand out above the others?

Fundraising Fundamentals

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The concept of a fundraising letter is to essentially raise money for a nonprofit organization. These letters also serve other purposes, such as:


  • Identifying new donors

  • Increasing visibility

  • Boosting community relations

  • Addressing potential volunteers

The two key messages that fundraising letters need:


  • Emotional and benefits-driven

  • The recipient's help is needed to make a difference

Format:
One page

Also can include:


  • Boldface type

  • Underlining

  • Different font colors



But, NOTHING that looks too expensive. You should not be asking for money if you can afford a pricy template.

Here is an example of a letter I wrote last week:


WA logo

December 3, 2013

WA volunteers
Dear Friend of Women's Advocate's,

For over 39 years, Women's Advocates, Inc. continues to aid women, children, and families through shelter, support, information, advocacy, and education. We hope that you will be able to take part in supporting these women and their children.

It is our mission to eliminate domestic violence among women, children, and families. In order to achieve our mission and provide services to our community, we rely on the kindness and generosity of fantastic individuals and businesses. Without the assistance from individuals like you, we would not be able to fight successfully against domestic violence.

We ask that you make a contribution to support the fight against domestic violence by making cash or check donation. Our goal is to achieve $375,000. This year, we hope that you will be able to take part in supporting these women and their children. Every donation makes a difference to the women and children continually impacted by domestic violence.

Thanks in advance for your extreme generosity and kindness!

Sincerely,
Becky Prosser

P.S.--Every donation counts, regardless of size.

PSA: Stay informed.

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As a citizen of the United States, it is crucial to stay informed with politics and public affairs. I have recently struggled with this issue the past few years until I wrote a constituent letter for one of my classes.

I did not really know much about what was going on at the Capitol, so I did some research on the latest policy debates among Congress. Without a doubt, I found the most information about the Affordable Care Act. I knew a good amount of information about ObamaCare, but I wanted to write to Congressman Paulsen to get another take on the issue.

Here is what I wrote:

Dear Congressman Paulsen:

I am currently a student at the University of Minnesota studying Journalism and Mass Communications. I am a newly voting constituent who attempts to stay attune to political issues that face our nation to the best of my ability, but I do not always understand the benefits or repercussions of each bill passed. Today, I am inquiring about the recent amendment to the Affordable Care Act, S. 1693: ACA Enrollment Extension Act. I support the passing of the act, but my questions focus primarily of the future it faces.

The House of Representatives passed the bill this previous Friday being fully aware of the threats to veto it from President Obama. On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Since then, he has made major changes to the bill that some constituents deem unconstitutional because of his lack of partnership with the legislative branch.

My question for you is, what is your opinion on the law since the changes of the passage? I am wondering what your thoughts are about his actions being constitutional. It seems to me that he is taking certain liberties and pulling away provisions to transform the law into something completely different. Lastly, what is the purpose of this law if it continues to be altered? I urge you to continue your efforts to amend this law.

Please contact me via email at pross030@umn.edu. I look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely,
Rebeccah Prosser

Amazon Product Review Sample

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Product reviews are a perfect way to hone those writing skills as a strategic communicator in training. Here is a review I wrote for a computer case a few months back:

Good, not perfect: 9/19/13 @ 9:05am

Speck computer cases are an efficient way to protect your laptop. They not only protect your case from potential damage, but also can be specially designed just for you.

Personally, I am a very clumsy person and do not always watch where I am going so I decided that after two years of having a MacBook Pro, it was time to finally purchase a computer case. There were random dents and I could not afford to take a chance on causing anymore harm. Plus, I wanted my computer to be covered with a pretty case to look at and decorate however I please.

Although I am extremely happy with my purchase, there are a few downsides. The first being that I wish I had done a little more research on where to buy it. I bought it from the Apple Store, but I should have purchased at Amazon.com, where it is a tad cheaper. Also, the enamel is starting to wear and tear in the corner areas, but the overall purpose of protecting the computer is still the most practical.

And saving the best for last, the most exciting part of purchasing a Speck computer case is the ability to decorate it with trendy stickers. I cannot wait to fill it up and personalize the case to my liking!

Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 3.28.13 AM.png

Local media executive and former anchor shatters television stereotypes to bring an entirely new perspective to the industry.

The Real Housewives of Orange County. Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Real World. What do these shows have in common? Copycat TV. Mindless programming. Recycled ideas. The exact programming that Colleen Needles Steward, CEO and President of Tremendous! Entertainment, Inc., is trying to avoid with her media production company.

Sixteen years ago Steward left her life as an anchor for WCCO in order to pursue a different venue--television production. Her new career path all began when watching Sesame Street and other children's programming with her children back in the early 1990s. While watching the television program, she thought of her own idea Because of her children, she came up with her own kid's program--"Once Upon a Tree."

The live puppet-action series with a talking tree had writers from Sesame Street was sold to Animal Planet back in the early 1990s. The hopes of only selling a pilot quickly transformed into 26 episodes and the birth of a media production company--Tremendous! Entertainment, Inc.

Looking back, Steward says, "I never really saw a future with television, but after [Once Upon A Tree] happened, the ideas just poured out."

Steward saw the opportunity in this experience and left her anchor job at WCCO in order to produce more television shows. The company and her continued to create shows that varied from wildlife documentaries to reality television. However, they have yet to face their roots of children's programming since the launch of "Once Upon A Tree."

Over time, the programs have continued to evolve as innovative shows that portray a unique perspective in the television industry. Their latest programming includes:
•Epic Homes showcases over-the-top properties in various settings, such as log cabins, islands, and castles. The show is packed with passionate homeowners that will not settle for less than perfection. Aires on Destination America.
•Ghost Land Tennessee, which explores the possibility of ghosts from the perspective of a Southern Christian group of men. They investigate the paranormal and capture the spirits--using their own homemade equipment. Aires on Destination America.
•Their most recent pitch, Rosie, is about a woman's encounters with an angel. Premieres on TLC in the upcoming year.
•The popular program, Bizarre Foods: America returns with culinary host, Andrew Zimmern, for its seventh season of exploring the nation's oddest foods. Aires on the Travel Channel.

Today, Tremendous! Entertainment, Inc. has transformed into a dual headquarters-based company in Eden Prairie, MN and Hollywood, CA. For 13 years, the company was solely based in Minnesota. With the growth of the company, another headquarters moved to Hollywood to take advantage of the city's endless resources and connections. The company's time is evenly split in both cities.

Steward and her team have infiltrated successfully into the dual-city lifestyle. She is able to see her children that attend school in California while also creating the television shows she loves and cares about. Fortunately, they have not gained the Hollywood mindset of programming.

"You know...in Hollywood they tend to write off the middle area of the states...but surprisingly enough, we find our best material right in our own backyards."

That latest material and talent--Off Pitch--was discovered in no other than LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The show is a reality comedy about "a loveable group of twenty-something misfits who sing and dance their hearts out in small festivals and venues."

"We pride ourselves on our motto--'Telling A Different Story'--rather than reproducing something that has already been done a thousand times," states Steward.

This mantra has proven successful with several highly prestigious awards and accolades. Over the years, Tremendous! Entertainment programming has received:
• Emmy Awards
• Edward R. Murrow and Peabody Awards
• NPPA Photographer of the Year Awards
• Telly Awards
• Andrew Carnegie Medal
• The Livingston Award
• Iris Award
• Gold medals at the New York, Houston, and 48 Hour Film Festivals

Colleen Needles Steward has had a full career packed with unique experiences and memories and she does not plan on stopping anytime soon. In the next 10 years, she sees her and the Tremendous! Entertainment team continuing to grow and diversify with digital media, scripted television, and movies.

Steward reflects fondly of her incredible experience as an anchor for WCCO. Throughout her adventures, she had unbelievable opportunities that local broadcasting cannot provide anymore. During her WCCO days, she traveled to New Guinea for three weeks to film a documentary of Catholic missionaries and three (now former) headhunters.

She recalls the opportunity as "such an authentic experience to see that life hasn't changed" and loved the simple lives that they lead.

With the ever-evolving world of journalism, she does not see herself returning to WCCO or broadcasting. Lead anchors do not travel to film a documentary anymore--which was her favorite part on the job.

While Steward does not foresee Tremendous! Entertainment as the next go-to media company, her unique perspectives of the television industry and novel ideas push the company above the rest. She is always on the move for the next big idea and never seems to slow down.

"The days start early. The nights end late. And I work so much, but I cannot imagine myself doing anything else."

She is a woman who is full of energy and life that truly loves what she does for a living--which is a breath of fresh air.

Expect the Unexpected

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As a junior, I cannot help but think about my eminent future and where exactly I will be headed after graduation day hits in a year and a half. After speaking with Colleen Needles Steward, the President and CEO of Tremendous! Entertainment, Inc., I could not be more reassured that my life will be absolutely unpredictable--in the best way possible.

Colleen majored in Finance and Economics and never dreamed of even being in journalism, let alone media production. After working for a little bit, she decided to go back and get her Master's Degree at Northwestern in Broadcast Journalism.

Shortly after, she began working with WCCO and eventually became an anchor. During this time of news broadcasting, she had the opportunity to travel all over the world to film documentaries for the news station.

IMG_0347.jpg

One day, her career completely changed when watching television with her children. Not long after, she had a 26-episode show--Once Upon a Tree--and a media production company to run.

Much like her career path, Tremendous! Entertainment Inc. provides unexpected television while portraying a unique spin on everyday life. The reality comedy, Off Pitch, tells a story about hometown show choir that you wouldn't expect from a mainstream program like Glee. Watch below:

http://www.vh1.com/video/misc/899891/tensions-run-high.jhtml#id=1705713

What I'm saying is I am not sure I know where I will end up 10 years from now as a strategic communicator. But, what I've learned from Colleen, I do know that the best career aspirations are unexpected.


NEWdeer.png
You can never know what to expect at Tremendous! Entertainment. There is an unexpected visitor just wanting to hang out on set.

The Necessities for a News Release

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News release writing is one of the most necessary skills in the world of public relations. It is an area of writing you need to know like the back of your hand. However, for a strategic communicator in training like me, this task still sounds daunting because you want your press release to be as perfect as possible. But, have no fear and pay attention to these few tips I have learned:

1.) Be concise as possible: It is all about quality not quantity. In fact, the goal is to get your point across with the least amount of words.

2.) Your first paragraph is make-or-break: It is crucial that you draw the audience in immediately. The lead needs to be strong and to the point. A news release is like an inverted pyramid--the important information is always first and the rest follows after.

3.) News releases are always:


  • Newsworthy

  • Well written

  • Timely


4.) When writing, ask yourself the 5 Ws and questions like "why is this relevant?" or "why should people care about this?"

5.) Include a quote BUT not just any quote: when quoting in a news release, the quote needs to serve a purpose. DO NOT just throw a random quote into a news release just because.

6.) Follow a standardized format:

news release format redo

7.) And finally PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, and proofread some more. Your news release will not been seen if there is any error.


Best of luck!


Work Samples: Email Pitches

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A little bit of my progress as a strategic communicator in training:

Media Pitch #1: Lose weight while you work --- Prevention Magazine

To: Stephanie.Castillo@rodale.com
From: bp@JustStand.org
Subject: For Stephanie Castillo: The Best Way to Lose Weight at Work

Ms. Castillo:

With Ergotron products, there is no excuse for why ladies cannot lose the extra pounds. Women can be productive at work while also having the ability to fit into those skinny jeans that were just a little too snug. There is no need to sit down so much in the workplace, so stand up. Statistics show that if you stand for more than three hours, you lose almost 150 calories, which configures to about eight pounds per year.

The "Just Stand" campaign founded by Ergotron would be a wonderful opportunity to feature in Prevention magazine. It is an alternatively unique way to lose weight with not an immense amount of proactivity. As a fan of Prevention, this potential article would balance well in topics, such as "Weight Loss Wisdom" or "Stuff That Works."

If interested, please contact my direct line 952-836-7574 and we can discuss further options about the collaboration of Prevention magazine and Ergotron products. This is an opportunity you do not want to miss.

Becky Prosser
Public Relations Director
Ergotron Electronics
952-836-7574
bp@ergotron.com


Media Pitch #2: Productivity at work---

To: Jason.Beaubien@npr.org
From: bp@JustStand.org
Subject: Sitting leads to unproductivity in the workplace? Now what?

The 2 o'clock hour vast approaches the office. Office workers become lethargic and start to doze off in their cushioned office chair. Productivity begins to lag. Many begin to chug energy drinks, Diet Cokes, and other unnatural drinks, in hope to not hit that inevitable "crash." Imagine the possibility of being able to feel rejuvenated instead of exhausted by the time you leave the office with the simple switch to standing instead of sitting at the office.

Two-thirds of U.S. employees wish their employees gave them to opportunity to sit or stand while working and 60 percent said they would be more productive at work. These are just a few of the statistics presented in the "Just Stand in The Office" survey presented by Ergotron electronics, a line of advanced computers that are attached to a wall instead of a desk.

"Just Stand" campaign challenges workers to stand at work with the technology of Ergotron products. This campaign wants to fight the "sitting" disease and causes of obesity with an innovative approach to the everyday lives of the workforce.

As a part of a national radio system that is constantly available to the public, we're suggesting the "Just Stand" campaign to be featured in your broadcast or even just a podcast. We are trying to get the word out to stop obesity with the "top of the line" products created by Ergotron. This is a crucial topic to discuss in our society and would build an even stronger credibility for National Public Radio.

If interested, please contact me at my direct line (952)-836-7574 and we can further discuss a campaign feature on one of your radio stations.

Becky Prosser
Public Relations Director
Ergotron Electronics
952-836-7574
bp@ergotron.com


Media Pitch #3: Cheap---Wall Street Journal blog

To: realtimeeconomics@wsj.com
Subject: To Phil Izzo: Exclusive on how to save on office supplies

Tired of spending money on useless office supplies that you are forced to purchase? Want a new economical way to save some cash for your business or company?

These are just a few of the questions that Wall Street Journal readers ask themselves on daily basis. This issue could be fixed with your help of introducing the "Just Stand" campaign presented by Ergotron products. With the economy the way that it is, this would be a perfect opportunity to promote the idea of no chairs in the office. In addition, these products compare in prices to other desktops and could be endorsed as an investment, which would attract viewers.

If you want to capitalize on this investment of a storyline for your blog, "Real Time Economics," I can be reached at my direct line 952-836-7574.

Becky Prosser
Public Relations Director
Ergotron Electronics
952-836-7574
bp@ergotron.com


Media Pitch #4: Healthy & decrease laziness

To: rtessman@kare11.com
From: bp@JustStand.org
Subject: Take A Stand: Exclusive for A Healthy Workplace

Dear Renee Tessman:

The risk of heart attack is nearly the same for someone who smokes as it is for someone who sits for most of the day. Constantly, our ears are ringing with the idea that society needs to become more active, but there is the perpetual struggle of finding the time and energy to do it. After work, adults become sluggish and cannot muster up the motivation to go to the gym. However, there is an alternative to decrease laziness and increase a healthier lifestyle that the audiences of Kare11 do not want to miss out on---that takes place in the work environment!

"Just Stand" campaign is an extraordinary approach to stop obesity among the Twin Cities area. A feature on Kare11 of this revolutionary campaign with Ergotron's top of the line technology would be a great story for your viewers. Your recent "Take Kare of Your Health" blog posts correlate nicely already with the "Just Stand" campaign of promoting an active lifestyle.

Our team would be there every step of the way to make it a great story that your audience needs to hear. We would be willing to provide all the necessary information, interviews, and events. If you are interested in this trending topic or want to participate in the cause, I can be reached at my direct line: 952-836-7574 and we can further discuss storylines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Becky Prosser
Public Relations Director
Ergotron Electronics
952-836-7574
bp@ergotron.com