posted by Taylor Craig Sep 03,2015 @ 04:34PM

What Public Relations Professionals Actually Do

I declared my major as public relations during my sophomore year of college. Admittedly, at the time I wasn’t quite sure what exactly public relations entailed. Well, surely it involves dealing with people, right? I’m outgoing. I can do that, I thought. Three years, hundreds of writing assignments and a post-grad apprenticeship later, I’m realizing that a lot of people may not understand what public relations is—I know I didn’t. When I say that I work in public relations, I usually get responses like, “So you’re an event planner?” or “That’s cool, my aunt is also in marketing!”

Yes, part of my job is event planning, and digital marketing can go hand-in-hand with public relations to create an integrated campaign. But neither of those things fully describes what public relations professionals do. From the outside, the profession seems confusing. I experienced that confusion myself. I am now in the third month of my public relations apprenticeship at Riggs Partners, and I just finished planning and managing two huge events in two weeks alongside Kelly Davis, our public relations director. Together, these events have given me firsthand insight into what public relations professionals actually do.

1)   Planning – A crucial part of public relations is strategic planning. Planning encompasses almost every other aspect of public relations within itself. Planning for public relations includes research, establishing goals, formulating outreach and response strategies, implementing communications tactics, and evaluation. Public relations professionals must plan for what will happen and what probably won’t happen. In the words of one of my favorite professors, “Nothing just happens—if you are at all related to it, you are responsible for it.”

2)   Writing – In college, my professors always stressed the importance of writing in public relations. It is imperative to be an effective communicator in this profession. A large portion of my time is spent writing news releases, media advisories, story pitches, and social media posts. Proofreading is essential.

3)   Educating – One responsibility of public relations professionals is to educate and engage the public. From an agency perspective, this task varies greatly from client to client. In my experience, educating the public has meant spreading the word about a free service that people may be eligible for, informing people about an upcoming industry conference and encouraging them to register, or simply raising awareness about an important issue in the community. Another quote from that same professor, “In public relations, information is power.”


4)   Media Relations – One way to educate the public is to engage media participation in spreading the word about different issues and events. Part of our job as public relations professionals is to help the media do their jobs well. Media relations is much more than writing a fill-in-the-blank press release and distributing it to as many media outlets as possible. Instead, you must consider the audience you are trying to engage and focus on the media outlets that would be the most in-line with their needs. It is important to provide media with all necessary information and to connect them with the appropriate people for interviews to best tell your story. If you leave media hanging, they’re left to draw their own conclusions—which isn’t beneficial for anyone.

5)   Monitoring – Another large part of public relations is monitoring media coverage. If you sought media coverage of an event or story about your organization, it is important to check the coverage you earned for accuracy. Monitoring allows you to see which aspects were conveyed well and which aspects may not have been, and may teach you what to avoid for next time.

So yes, public relations professionals are event planners. And yes, they can be involved with marketing. But they’re also storytellers, crisis managers, media contacts, writers, researchers, educators, and so much more. As we wrap up a hectic summer, I feel incredibly thankful for the knowledge I’ve gained so far here at Riggs. These three months as a public relations apprentice have given me hands-on experience that has changed how I see public relations as a profession.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of coffee (for those 4 a.m. news shots).


Kelly and me meeting the TV stations before Dental Access Days at 4 a.m.

posted by Michael Powelson Apr 08,2015 @ 11:20AM

"Intimate Exchanges": New work and the possibilities of Point of View

Our Cups Runneth Over 

Everyone loves secrets. And as a creative director, it’s always a treat to realize your client is holding on to one of the “best kept” variety.

In the case of Goodwill of the Upstate & Midlands, that little known fact was the extraordinary lengths the organization stretches to squeeze every last drop of value from a second-hand donation. We’re talking extreme thrift and re-imagining of materials — an “everything-can-be-used-for-something” mentality that would make the earliest inhabitants of this continent nod in solemn approval[1]. Bottom line: if you think that junk in your basement is worth just as much at the dump as anywhere else, you’re wrong. And a 20-minute tour of Goodwill’s distribution center in Greenville will prove it.

So raise your hand if you’ve ever considered taking a 20 minute tour of Goodwill’s distribution center in Greenville.

Siri? Siri is that you? Please say something so I know in which direction to speak…the multitude of hands…they blind me so.

Yeah, it’s just not something people do.

What people do is watch videos on the internet. Even some that don’t have kittens or naked people in them. So we decided this might be a decent way to tell the story of Goodwill’s obsessive point of difference.

But a virtual tour? Come on. We’re not hocking timeshares here[2]. Besides, a 50 mm lens just isn’t going to do justice to the massive operation and rigorous protocols that break donations down to fetch the most a market will bear. What we needed was a unique, amusing way to demonstrate how Goodwill gets more out of things than anyone else. What we needed was a different point of view.

Ever wonder if your old stuff has thoughts? Anxieties? Even, gasp, desires? Sure, it’s ridiculous. But so are human beings. Just ask John Lasseter, who turned the notion into a feature franchise and 2 billion dollars worth of ridiculousness for Pixar.

Point is, when we took our own tour of the Distribution Center, we couldn’t help but be distracted by the true menagerie of donated items. It was fun to realize that each one had recently left its home with a back story, a sense of character, and, given a little imagination, a point of view. We saw such unlikely pairings of items sitting side by side, waiting to be sorted out. What in the world would their conversations be like as they made their way through this Ellis Island of material goods? And could those conversations be an unexpected ticket to telling the larger brand story?

Given a few of the more colorful things we saw, we think they might have played out something like this:  





P.S.P.S (Pleasant Surprise Post Script): This work was recently featured on the international industry site "Best Ads On TV," an accomplishment made even more special given that the videos will never, in fact, be seen on TV.

[1] Not something there's been a lot of cause for in the last 500 years.
[2] That is unless you own some. Who doesn't love time? And the sharing! Call us.  

posted by Kevin Archie Apr 01,2015 @ 07:50AM

a reflection of brand values

Volvo has long been a company intent on making the world a safer place. Responsible for such innovations as the 3-point safety belt, rearward-facing child safety seats, the Lambda Sond (a device that reduces harmful exhaust emissions by 90%), side-impact airbags, and smart technology systems that can detect objects in blind spots or even pedestrians near cars—Volvo has stood by its philosophy to always put people first. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Volvo's latest innovation has nothing to do with their cars—at least not directly.


Enter LifePaint, a unique reflective safety spray invisible by day but bright and reflective in the glare of headlights at night. This clear removable spray can be applied to a cyclists bike and gear to increase visibility on roads. In other words, a multi-billion dollar car company invented a can of spray paint to help protect cyclists from getting hit by the very thing that company creates: cars.

LifePaint is yet another demonstration of Volvo's relentless commitment to safety for all—even those who choose not to buy their cars. This commitment extends even further with the company's bold vision to see no person killed or seriously injured by or in a new Volvo by the year 2020.

How refreshing it is to see a company so in tune with its core values that everything it says and does perfectly reflects those values; to see the inner workings of a brand brought to light through the very way it interacts with the people around it, whether they buy its product or not. Our aim here at Riggs is to achieve that same brand clarity for every client.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jul 30,2014 @ 11:31AM

How One Brand Ignited A Spanish Revolution

I have just returned from a life list vacation. Four days in Barcelona, four days in Madrid, four days in Valencia. I was overwhelmed with the immersion in history a trip like that provides; it's simply impossible to wrap your head around tour-guide comments like during the Roman Empire and in the 8th century, after the Moor conquest. And yet history was there, in crumbling city walls and decaying columns and guarding gargoyles of every attitude and style. It was there—not a homework paragraph in a World History book, but carved in stones you could reach out and touch, rubbing your hands along the ancient surfaces.


intheoldcity one of a thousand streets in the ancient city of Barcelona


There is this aged history you see and feel and know in all three of the cities we visited. What I found surprising—and, quite frankly jarring—is the contrast between this history and a distinctly 20th century art form wildly prolific there.




Graffiti. Graffiti is everywhere. Graffiti is so profuse in these cities and along the rails as you travel by train it overwhelms the senses and seems to somehow leave Spain's remarkable beauty in shadow.


When I first arrived in Barcelona, I made my way through the city thinking: Obviously the Spanish embrace graffiti as art. What a great example of the wonderful, easy-going European attitude! But it didn't take long until a growing irritation began to color my thoughts.

How on earth did they let it go this far?





Here's what I have learned.

  • In Spain, graffiti is illegal and considered vandalism.
  • The graffiti movement is a counter-cultural revolution that began in the first years of Spain's transition from a dictatorship to a democracy during the early 80s. According to Skate and Urban Street Culture Barcelona, "Young people began to write their names everywhere, on walls in the street, in the metro, wherever. The materials they used were from a view of nowadays rather rudimentary. Among them were 'Edding' felt-tips, shoe polishes and paint sprays. Also they made their own utensils, adapting for example pens with a wider tip using gasoline burners to create this effect or they prepared the nozzles of the sprays to achieve a wider marking style. During this time it was more common to steal the equipment from big warehouses, car shops or stationers. Today there are still some artists remaining that practice this kind of style."
  • "The art form changed" in 1994 when a new type of paint spray can was developed specifically for graffiti writers and introduced by a company called Montana Colors.

According to the Montana Colors website:

In the early '90s, graffiti was considered, by all of the American and European spray paint companies, to merely be an act of vandalism. It was of no interest to any of the companies, because it wasn't yet considered to be profitable. At that time, the discovery of this passionate cultural revolution was what propelled the founders of Montana Colors to lay the groundwork for the creation of the first spray paint made especially for graffiti and, in that way, fill that hole in the market.

Today, Montana Colors is a major brand. Again from the website:

All brands have a path and a record in history, as well as an appellation of origin which guarantees its authenticity. Ours began 18 years ago in Barcelona, at a time when, after the launch of our first spray product, the word spread across Europe, and writers and artists from France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy began to arrive to fill their car trunks with Montana and bring it back to their countries. From that moment up until now, the Montana Colors brand has expanded to a presence in more than 30 countries in the world and to 15 official points of sale: Montana Shop & Gallery, in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Seville, Montpellier, Brussels, Amsterdam, Nottingham, Lisbon, Montreal, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and San Paulo.

The root of the proliferation of graffiti in these ancient Spanish cities comes down to two things: (1) personal statements of rebellion and independence following a dictatorship, and (2) the introduction of a product that "filled a hole in the market."

And if that's not a statement about the cultural power of branding, I don't know what is.

posted by Michael Powelson Jul 15,2014 @ 06:24AM

Spirit of the Lowcountry In New Spots

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.43.00 AM


Went in search of some Lowcountry soul and met great folks with unique perspectives on patient care at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

Hope to have done both justice with these new spots.


Suzanne Larson from Michael Powelson on Vimeo.


Mike McCarty from Michael Powelson on Vimeo.


Jo Anne Tudor from Michael Powelson on Vimeo.


Special thanks to director Joanne Hock and GreyHawk Films, our partners in crime on this rewarding project.






By the numbers

youtube is 2nd largest search engine