Public Relations: A Misunderstood World

At the beginning of the fall semester, I was given the task of defining public relations in my own words. At the time, I had only known public relations to be a “behind the scenes” and “getting your hands dirty” type of field where people focus on the communication process (with the intended audience) with the opportunity to plan and coordinate events when asked. Having re-read this post here at the end of the semester, I can’t say that I was too far off–but boy was I wrong. To see exactly what I said, visit my blog post at:

Was I right to say that the majority of work done by public relations teams is done behind the scenes? Absolutely. Was I right to say that public relations teams get their hands dirty when they work? Of course. Was I right in describing some of the work that these teams do? HA! Boy, did I undersell it.

Depending on the exact project given to a public relations team, the workload can range anywhere from doing nearly nothing, to doing absolutely everything. For example, a PR team may do something as small as give a company some insight on what to do to gain attention or how they can do it; a PR team may do as much as give a company this information, generate a plan of attack that includes a schedule, and continue on to implement it in every facet and evaluate the results. Other work can fall anywhere between these points.

Playing football for ten years and continuing to follow the sport today, I feel as though a public relations team is very comparable to a team’s offensive lineman. For those unfamiliar with the analogy, an offensive line is responsible for knowing the play, knowing what their teammates are responsible for, knowing what the defense intends to do, and understanding (with all of that information) how to defend their team and drive them down the field. In the PR world, one must know the company or brand they are representing, what the overall goal is, why that goal is important and how it will benefit the brand or company, and of course how to reach that goal in the end. The two may not always get the credit that they deserve, but for those who know what they did, the gratitude is endless.

Stepping away from what we know public relations is, what public relations is not is obviously advertising and marketing; however, this is not to say that all three are not directly involved. Although public relations, advertising, and marketing have separate definitions, the three are still severely intertwined and work together well. Most commonly, it is up to the public relations team to use an advertisement, or for a public relations team to use a market or marketing strategy, and integrate them into their plans.

With this semester coming to a close, I believe myself to have a much tighter grasp on how difficult, frustrating, exciting, and intense the public relations world can be. With tasks and clients changing almost every day, public relations keeps you on your toes and forces you to focus on every detail to find success. Having a better understanding of what the public relations world and workload entails, I could very well see myself working in the PR field in the future–even as an advertising emphasis.

Matt Henkel | GVSU | 11 December 2017


Public relations needs social media and here is why

Social media has changed the landscape of public relations forever. Whether you prefer Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, or another social media outlet, brands and businesses have found ways to implement new strategies to reach their target audiences in ways that were impossible not long ago.

“Before the mass-adoption of social media, such precise messaging was never possible to the degree that it is now. And it will get more precise in the future: a new wave of targeting options based upon your proximity to a particular business or location are on the horizon.”

This quote from Jim Dougherty (2014) proves my point. When talking about a platform like Facebook, as Dougherty was in the quote above, he goes on to mention that having this new level of precision in parameters like behavior, interests, education, and connections, “allows for more sophistication and efficiency in PR campaigns” (2014).

To build upon this, think about where you go when you are in need of information; better yet, think about where you already receive most of your information, on purpose or not.

“…Users of social networks stopped looking for ways to connect with brands and instead began seeing these sites as sources of information… In the beginning, they were a mashup of brand-driven advertising content, and now the networks have matured into places filled with breaking news and insight” (AdWeek, 2016).

In this story from a guest writer for AdWeek, the focus surrounds the idea of how well public relations and social media work together, and why it is important that the realization of this is now to avoid any tension in the future.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoy when big time companies take the time to connect with their followers on social media. I believe that staying true to the brand while making that connection to the audience is a great way to build a following for business and general opinion. A great example of this comes from the Twitter account of the Portland Trail Blazers.


With a post like this, the Trail Blazers did a fine job of embracing one of their star players accomplishments by sharing it with their fan base, but also added a somewhat “unprofessional” or “unorthodox” twist on it by captioning it with a hashtag of, “#SexiestManAlive.”


In this post, the account continued spreading the love for their players and even showed them outside of work spending time together. With the simple caption used, it again shows a passion for the brand and the members of it in a light, entertaining, and safe manner.


Here, the Trail Blazers reached out to their opponent after falling to them in a close game, 101-97. Despite nothing spectacular standing out about this tweet, as a fan, I can tell you that it is always exciting to see two teams communicating through social media, competitively or not. In this case, the account simply shows quality sportsmanship in a situation that did not require such action. To the Portland Trail Blazers social media team, I would like to say hats off to you guys.

From the perspective of a company that does not share the same spotlight as an NBA team, though, it is important to understand what makes social media and public relations so powerful together. To a degree, the answer remains the same.

“With social media, you are developing relationships with huge numbers of people directly – often they feel that this relationship is one-on-one. It is a much quicker, more direct route of communication to a targeted audience who have chosen to engage with your brand on social media” (Pollard, 2017).

People like to feel important, and if a company has the opportunity to build that one-on-one relationship with their audience, it can often play a major factor in the success of a public relations campaign.

As we see it today, social media has become one of the most important staples in society and has shown no signs of slowing down. For public relations, this is important because of how well the two work together, and how bright of a future the two can have if they can be implemented effectively together.


AdWeek. (2016, June 15). Why social media is the perfect PR channel. Retrieved from,

Dougherty, J. (2014, Sep. 8). 6 ways social media has changed public relations. Cision. Retrieved from,

Pollard, C. (2017, Oct. 20). Why you should combine your social media and PR. Huffington Post. Retrieved from,

Matt Henkel | GVSU | 15 November 2017

Semester recap: What I learned in CAP 105

After a long and hard fought battle with this past semester, everything seems to be falling into place nicely. Between all the tests, papers, and projects, I have come a long way from where I started out this semester and have learned a lot. Most importantly, I enjoyed everything that I have learned and done not just in my CAP 105 class, but in all of my classes. Despite all the enjoyment I have had and learning that I have done, though, I am writing to reflect only on the things that I have learned from CAP 105; fortunately, there is plenty to report on.

From creating my very first blog, to conducting a sprint with some of my classmates, to working with Adobe apps like Photoshop, InDesign, and PremierePro, I have enjoyed everything that I participated in over the course of this semester.

Starting with this blog, I have enjoyed taking the time to jot down some of my thoughts on many interesting topics. Although some posts have had more of a specific focus than others, I have still enjoyed looking further into the important aspects of my career path and reflecting on my findings. Doing this has not only been eye opening, but has also taught me how I am fully capable of educating myself at times, and how much power I have over my knowledge. Taking the time to do research that is not only interesting but also plays in integral role in my future is empowering. Although this semester is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean I will lose the ability to further my education.

When working with classmates in a sprint, I have found that I can work very effectively with others, especially when I am placed in a role where I feel more comfortable. In my group, I was a co-leader with one of my classmates, as we worked together on leading our group to success. Although our group did not win the challenge, we still put up a good fight, and created a product worth being proud of.

As a co-leader, I found myself to be very comfortable leading my team in the right direction. Coming up with a blueprint or an outline of what we wanted our final product to look like was exciting and again, empowering. I enjoyed working with my team to create a product that we all believed in, and especially under my guidance. It helped too that my workplace-1245776_640teammates were so engaging in the process and worked well with my ideas; everything seemed to fall into place under my supervision.

Because this was a learning experience and I had never participated in such an activity, I am not ashamed of falling short of first place, although it would have been nice. As a learning experience, I found that I have a natural ability to talk with others rather than to others in an efficient and effective manner that bodes well in a team environment, especially under such time constraints. I am hoping to find myself in a similar role in the future.

Finally, working with some of the apps in the Adobe Suite, I found it to be refreshing, exciting, frustrating, and entertaining. Because I had used some of Adobe’s apps in the past, I had a somewhat smooth transition back into the creative world. I may have needed a slight refresher, but for the most part, I found myself using each app effectively.

In terms of my excitement and frustration, I came to enjoy using each application and was excited to get back into class and either try something new with it or build on what I had already been working on. I was proud of everything that I completed, but know that I could have done more with more time.

My frustrations came when something failed to go the way that I had hoped. Although I had a rather smooth transition back into the Adobe world, not everything came easily. I found myself struggling with a few minor things over the course of use app’s use, but always found a way to come around and make things come together the way I had hoped. That was what I found to be most entertaining: the struggles that I was able to persevere through.

Overall, I believe that CAP 105 helped me grow as a future advertising and public relations employee, and I am excited to expand on what I have learned here and eventually apply it to the real world and my career.

Matt Henkel | GVSU | 10 April 2017

Content with a purpose

Scott Kronick of PR Week made an important and wonderful point when he wrote that,

“…content with a purpose is about creating a portfolio of content across platforms and media that drives a business and reputational goal. If it doesn’t drive those hard goals, it’s just vanity publishing.”

Although he wrote this back in 2014, I believe that this remains true today. Nothing aggravates an audience more than hearing things that are just said to be said. A brand, a company, or an individual with a PR team should focus not so much on attention, but purpose.

I would be lying if I said it was always a bad thing to receive attention; in some cases, a business make receive attention that makes you more money than you could have ever imagined, but that doesn’t come with talent, but rather luck.

In my opinion, the best way to drive home an important point and make your message known is by having content with a purpose that is driven by a hard or set goal, similar to what Kronick said in his piece. I believe that creating a message, visual or text, must focus more on creating a positive outlook to bolster your reputation rather than hoping for random attention.

Leaving politics out of it, a modern example of poor public relations efforts would be with current US President Donald Trump. Again not picking sides, most people are aware of Trump’s constant use of Twitter, and what sort of backlash he receives for the things he posts. As the President of the United States, Trump is more than welcome to utilize Twitter and post as he pleases, however it would be a smart move by his PR team to review pending tweets of his, and decide from there whether or not it would be beneficial to him to say what he had planned.

Keeping these ideas in mind, it is important to also make note of when a PR team does a good job.

When Snickers ran their live advertisement during the Super Bowl this past February, they received a lot of negative feedback on it, but also a lot of attention. Although it is likely that the disgust with the advertisement did not turn away any consumers of Snickers, it did give reason for Snickers to make some sort of apology or acknowledgement of their failed ad.

Playing on the initial ad, Snickers had Adam Driver, the lead role of the first ad, stand in front of the camera and deliver an apology for the events that had occurred earlier. To further acknowledge their failures, they made light of the situation by having a worker in the back of the screen putting out the fires created before, which in turn constantly cut off Driver’s apology. These interruptions eventually irritated Driver to the point that he had to leave the screen and end the commercial.

Although it was clear that this second advertisement was more scripted than the original ad, it was still pleasing to see Snickers acknowledge what had gone wrong in their live ad.

A public relations team’s most important goal should be to create a more positive perception of whoever they are supporting, and focus on creating a purpose for reaching out to the public, just as Snickers did in their apology advertisement.

Matt Henkel | GVSU | 23 March 2017

Tech trends of 2017: Ads on mobile devices

After previously elaborating on multiple advertising and public relations tech trends that look to take place over the course of 2017, I thought that I would take the time to focus my attention on what I believe is the most interesting of the few that I covered: ads on mobile devices.

Although many of us are already familiar with the idea of seeing an ad or two on our phones every once in a while, 2017 looks to turn it up a notch and makes ads appear much more frequently on mobile devices.

Below, I have shared a collection of photos posted on Flickr, a video uploaded to YouTube, and a podcast uploaded to SoundCloud in which I build on this topic of ads on phones, and further share my insight on what 2017 looks to bring to the table.

Photo Collage (Flickr):

Tech Trends of 2017: Ads on Mobile Devices

Video (YouTube):

Podcast (SoundCloud):


Matt Henkel | GVSU | 2 March 2017

The connection between journalism, advertising, and public relations

Journalism: the activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or preparing news to be broadcast;

Advertising: the activity or profession of producing advertisements for commercial products or services;

Public Relations: the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.

Aside from these three terms relating to a person’s profession, the important thing that they all have in common is the idea of providing the public with information. Along with each providing the public with information comes certain levels of bias, creating the correct image in the public’s mind, and strategizing ways to deliver these messages.

When it comes to journalism, the public likes to believe that journalists are relaying messages consisting only of fact and matter. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although journalists are technically required to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, there are still ways for them to tweak the story in order for it to sound more appealing to and in favor of their company, brand, team, etc. For example, with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots recently defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, sports writers across the country will all state the same few facts: the Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit to complete the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, winning 34-28 in OT; Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl; Tom Brady and James White broke multiple Super Bowl records; etc. Where journalists can manipulate the story is in how they tell these facts.

The newspaper in Boston the next morning may have more stories focused on the outcome of the game, it will discuss how the Patriots won the game, and will likely discuss how historic Super Bowl LI really was.

The newspaper in Atlanta, however, may not be so kind. Blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl is a bitter way to end a season, and the newspaper will likely reflect that. The newspaper will also acknowledge that Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl ring, and that the final score was 34-28 in OT. Here’s the catch: the Atlanta newspapers will likely fail to give the Patriots all the credit that is due, and will focus on how the Falcons lost the Super Bowl, rather than the Patriots winning it, and earning the trophy. In this way, the newspaper can still focus on their hometown team and tell the majority of the facts, but will do so in a way that fails to note how well the opposing team actually played.

When providing news through advertising, outlets like commercials, billboards, and other advertisements will also provide information to the public in a way that promotes their product or service in the most favorable way.

Reusing my previous example with the Super Bowl, the Patriots and Falcons participated in one of the most spectacular and exciting games of my life, and it was a joy to watch. Having rooted for the Patriots, I would love to have a “New England Super Bowl LI Champs” shirt to show that, however had I rooted for the Falcons, I would not try and find a shirt that said “Super Bowl LI Runner-Up.”

In advertising, the idea is to promote your brand as positively as you can, and to do so in this situation, the Falcons are more likely to promote merchandise that reminds their fans that they were the champions of the NFC, and that they at least played in the Super Bowl rather than promote gear that directly reflects the outcome—that’s what the Patriots are more likely to promote.

Being the best team in the NFL is an honor, and it would be wise for the Patriots to embrace that idea and share merchandise that reminds their fans of their accomplishments. For the Falcons, the same can be said about their accomplishments, however it would reflect different aspects of them. Examples of these advertisements can be seen on each team’s personal website: &

In public relations, the key concept is to specifically ensure that your products and clients maintain the most positive image possible. Using a new example (even though it still relates to the Super Bowl), Snickers has a lot of work to do after the stunt they pulled in their Super Bowl commercial. Although I am a big fan of Adam Driver, enjoy Snickers, and will not boycotting either of them any time  soon, there is still a need for Snickers to make up for what a disaster their commercial was.

Although they broke ground on airing something other than news in real time, received a tremendous amount of attention, and had many people talking about their candy and brand, it is still important for the Snickers’ public relations team to stay on top of any negativity the brand may face as a result of the commercial, and ensure that there aren’t any people who do choose to boycott their spokesperson or candy (again, I will not be one of those people).

If you have not seen the commercial yet, here is a link to it, as well as the brand’s attempt at apologizing for it later: &

To summarize the connections between journalism, advertising, and public relations, the important thing to keep in mind is that each is a professional manner in which news and information is provided to the public. Although each may present these things in different manners and assert different biases, all three focus provide justifiable information for the world that will preserve a positive image at the same time.

Matt Henkel | GVSU | 14 February 2017

2017: The twists and turns in technology

With each passing year, the entire world looks to innovate from top to bottom. In 2017, the world of advertising and public relations looks to do the same–through technology. Some of the most important or noteworthy trends that look to change the way advertising and public relations are done in 2017 are: advancements in virtual reality (VR), tweaks to the ways in which individuals can shop online, and unfortunately, a higher number of advertisements on mobile devices.

As for advancements in virtual reality, it seems like one of maybe three things can happen: one, virtual reality could become a huge success and you won’t be able to go anywhere or do anything without the assistance of some sort of virtual experience; two, VR could be minimally utilized and possibly be considered a waste of money; or three, and I think the most likely, is that VR will progress slowly and although it will be popular and fun to use at first, it will ultimately become necessary only in practical situations (likely in business) where you can get an idea of what a product or service will look like in your own hands.

Personally, I am excited to see what changes VR can make in our every day lives, and how it can effect businesses. What is even more exciting, is how easy the experiences can be created. Although the costs may run high and we cannot be too sure how limited the equipment will be when it is further advanced, we already have incredibly powerful technology to offer interested individuals the opportunity to go on virtual adventures in their own homes. For more on how that could become a reality, I have found an insightful page that breaks down some of the steps to get your experience started:

As if America wasn’t already lazy as heck, 2017 looks to find ways to make us even lazier. According to, people are now able to not only shop online for their favorite music and clothing brands, but also for food ( ). With dozens of different sites offering multiple types of foods to shop for, people can now trade the long lines at the grocery store for a few taps on the screens of their smartphones to buy their groceries online. Although the convenience of this new way of shopping is one that many can appreciate with the ironically busy lives of Americans, I also worry that individuals are becoming so increasingly reliant on technology that the world depicted in the movie WALL-E is slowly becoming a reality–and NOT a virtual one.

With the idea of grocery stores becoming less pertinent to our day to day lives, the opportunity for advertising companies to shift their focus to the mobile world is now. Although ads, spam, and pop-ups on phones can lead some of us to wanting to break our phones in half, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of companies slowing down in the near future. According to a story from Clearcode ( ), Robert Brill of stated in a Q&A that 2017 is likely to have “three fourths of the $32B programmatic spending” go towards mobile device advertisements. In my opinion, this is not only a smart move for advertising companies to make but also the right one. With the world is becoming so heavily reliant on their phones, it only makes sense that advertisements follow the eyes of the consumer, and if their eyes are no longer focused on the world around them, ads have no other place to go than right in the consumers hands. Although this may not be the most popular change for most people, it definitely makes sense.

Overall, 2017 doesn’t look to be too different than in years past. Although there may not be so many changes that we become unfamiliar with our surroundings, the world looks to become simpler and more convenient for the individual. With virtual reality experiences that allow you to become more familiar with a product in your own home, shopping online for more than that new pair of shoes you’ve been wanting, and enough ads to make you feel like you’re still in line at the store, technological trends in 2017 look to change the world.

Matt Henkel | GVSU | 2 February 2017