Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guest speakers discuss working in energy industry public relations

The speakers at Wednesday’s Energy PR session offered attendees advice, anecdotes and information about they’re work.

Ed Clark, communications director for Austin Energy, said students should intern because of the experience it offers and they connections they can make.

“Intern somewhere — a newspaper or an advertising or public relations firm — and just work for nothing, because it will be worth it” Clark said.

Clark said working in the energy industry is stimulating because people have begun paying attention to the resources that supply power and the importance they have placed on being environmentally conscious.

“The energy industry is an interesting field right now,” Clark said. “No one likes coal. People like wind power and solar energy. But, you can’t press a button and make wind turbines turn without wind or make the sun provide power on a cloudy day. We need something that can run 24 hours a day on the push of a button.”

Will Holford, manager of public affairs for Bluebonnet Energy Cooperative, agreed with Clark.

“Ed is right: Coal is a dirty word,” he said. “People don’t like it, but it’s a necessity because it runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Colin Rowan, parter of I&O Communcations, expanded on the issue.

“Coal is a dirty word because it is dirty,” he said. “Frankly, if I had a mound of crap that I could burn to supply power, that doesn't mean it’s the best source to use. We need to find a way to burn coal responsibly.”

Clark said working in public relations involves significant interaction with reporters.

“We deal with the media a lot,” he said. “We put videos together and put all the facts on a sheet of paper so reporters have all the information they need.”

Holford expanded on how public relations workers interact with reporters and offered caution with an anecdote.

“R.G. Rátcliffe was writing a story about government spending,” Holford said. “He called Mark Sanders, a longtime friend who did PR for a government office, and asked him what he did to earn his salary. Mark answered, ‘Absolutely nothing,’ and hung up the phone. A minute later, R.G. called back and asked, ‘Can I quote you on that?’”

Holford said the quote was not printed (which Rátcliffe told Sanders after letting himworry for a one day or so), but the story goes to show: Do not say anything to a reporter that you don’t want to see in print.

Rowan described what working in the public relations industry involves. Rowan told a story about his daughter, who was in kindergarten at the time, asking what he does for a living.

“When you try to reduce what you do to a language a kindergartener can understand, it makes you wonder what you’ve done with your life,” he said. “When my daughter went to class, she said, ‘Daddy tries to change people’s minds.’”

Rowan said his daughter “hit the nail on the head.”

“Some people say public relations is about informing,” he said. “It isn’t. I try to persuade people using information.”

Rowan, who closed the presentation, said know how to write well is the best way to become indispensable.

“It makes me feel so old and fatherly to keep throwing out advice, but I will,” he said. “Knowing how to write clearly and communicate information in a manner anyone can understand is an valuable skill in any industry, especially public relations.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rachel Elsberry will be speaking at Texas State University's Mass Communications Week on Wednesday, October 22 at 2 p.m. in OM 234.

Elsberry has worked in television news for more than 15 years. She attend Alvin Community College and the University of Texas at Austin. She worked at the Fox affiliate in Detroit before coming to News 8 Austin in January 2001.

Elsberry will focus mainly on how the passing of Lady Bird Johnson was covered, the planning for it and how the professional sometimes affects us personally and she will address this in terms of Mrs. Johnson.

Energy-industry PR reps speak at Mass Comm Week session

Three public relations professionals will make a presentation at Texas State as part of Mass Comm week.

The Energy PR session will feature Ed Clark, communications director for Austin Energy, Will Holford, manager of public affairs for Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, and Colin Rowan, media relations for I&O Communications, as the guest speakers.

Clark, an alumnus of University of Alabama, is an advisory board member of Knowbility Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the availability of information technology to disabled adults and children. Clark’s past positions within Austin Energy include being a spokesperson and the director of corporate communications.

Holford earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism with a minor in history from Southwest Texas State University in 1999. Holford worked as a reporter for The Odessa American newspaper for 1 year after graduating, after which he took a position as the press secretary for Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. He has since held positions within Bank of America such as the assistant vice president, Texas public relations manager and market development manager. Holford returned to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts in July 2004 when he became the special assistant for communications for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Rowan writes a blog titled The Rowan Report. Rowan’s blog, which he also calls Rowan Communications, was designed to assist the media representatives of nonprofit organizations. Rowan has written editorials for The New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS and The Wall Street Journal. He has also appeared on NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight. Colin previously directed communications in Texas for Environmental Defense and helped run the organization on a national level at the Washington D.C.-based office. He held positions such as the vice president of TateAustin and communication director for Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s campaign before working for Environmental Defense.