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KSL social media director offers PR students view of new marketplace

February 12th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Allie Jeppson 

LOGAN–Twitter and Facebook are no longer just ways to enhance your personal life—they are ingredients to successful businesses, says the new director of social media at KSL TV in Salt Lake City.

Natalie Wardel told a full house of public relations students and faculty at Wednesday’s “Taste of PR” kickoff dinner at Hamilton’s in North Logan that social media is an increasingly important and effective tool for corporations, businesses and organizations. But, the 2006 USU journalism graduate warned, as important social media has become in modern life and business, communicators must remember that it’s only a tool.

“The goal is not to be good at social media,” Wardel said. “The goal is to be good at your job because of social media.”

The dinner, sponsored by the USU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), was a launch of the upcoming Vivint Mountain West Public Relations Conference, which will hosted by PRSSA and the Department of Journalism & Communication on the USU campus March 1-3.

• Click here for 4th Annual Mountain West Regional PR Conference, March 1-3.

Conference director and PR senior Jackie Berryhill said she was thrilled by the turnout for the dinner—98 people students, faculty and conference sponsors attended the event.

It was a double-homecoming for Wardel, who graduated from USU in print and broadcast journalism in 2006, and who supported herself while going to school as a hostess at Hamilton’s. The new director of social media for KSL 5 HD said social media is a great way to “put the public back into public relations.”

The practice of public relations and marketing has changed radically over the past decade, said Wardel, who went from reporting jobs at the Salt Lake Tribune and the Provo Daily Herald to direct PR for the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, before returning to Utah just a month ago.

“It used to be you’d write a press release, you’d send the press release, you’d call media endlessly and then you’d kiss up to media hard core,” she said. “Then celebrate a front-page story and cross your fingers and hope that someone would see that front-page story.” That was how public relations worked not so long ago, Wardel said.

But with the growing popularity of social media, PR has become more than just writing press releases and contacting media. Public relations is the art of managing your own message, Wardel said.

“You don’t need to wait for that front-page story [anymore],” she said, “which is awesome.”

Public relations practice now is almost like its own newsroom, she said. In order to be effective, businesses must connect with their customers through channels such as Facebook and Twitter, among many others, she said.

Having started as a print and TV journalist, and then turning to public relations and earning an MBA, Wardel has practiced all sides of the communications trade.

“I think that [public relations, journalism and marketing] really play off of each other, especially in a social media role,” Wardel said. “I’m promoting my company as much as I’m distributing news, so there’s an understanding that helps.”

With the economy still struggling, finding a job is never an easy task. However, as public relations has become a more diverse field, job opportunities are increasing, Wardel said. It was a message the PR students were relieved to hear.

“She was encouraging because she let us know that there are so many opportunities out there,” said PR senior Annie Jackson.

Wardel also advised the students to create their own crafted social media presence to make themselves more marketable.

“The best advice is to just experiment,” Wardel said. “You can really play with it and develop an understanding of what works and what doesn’t before you’re even presenting to a client, which is really helpful.”

Prospective employers will see that you’re proficient in using social media by the social presence that you’ve built for yourself online, Wardel said.

“Its always so good to attend these types of events,” Berryhill said. “That’s what I want to go into, so hearing her stories and hearing the do’s and don’ts … that’s what I need to hear to become better.”

Senior Erika Rasmussen, who is working as a social media intern this semester for ICON, a Logan-based exercise equipment company, could apply Wardel’s advice to her job.

“Natalie did a great job hitting on social media because I think with this generation that’s what we’re focused on,” Rasmussen said. “She gave us so many tips on how we can make it work.”



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