Visit Your Local Public Library

There are places to go, things to do, and fun to be had at your local public library. The public library is a great place to go, if you have a lot that you want to do, and would like to stay locally, your town, city, or county has a lot to offer you, other than just books and magazines. Reading is great, and visiting your public library will give you a chance to stay current with best-sellers, as well as titles that interest you. There’s something at the library for almost everyone to enjoy, think of it as being a community center full of free activities.

Many public libraries offer summer programs, activities, speakers, and presentations. There are groups for people with interests, such as writers’ groups, crafts clubs, and cooking clubs. Some of these town centers offer museum passes for people who live in the community to use. Some offer spaces for art presentations, free plays, presentations and movies. These are full-screen presentations of popular, recent films, that you will enjoy viewing. Some of the movies are for adults, others are all-ages presentations. Some libraries even offer free, light refreshments, or a play group with activities for the kids’ movies.

There are also free or low-cost computer classes offered at many public libraries that many people should take advantage of. There are also organized bus trips to popular regional attractions hosted by many libraries that help us to save money, and make new friends.

If you like to read, there are reading clubs and book exchanges offered at the public library that will be of interest to you. These groups meet in the summer, some offer rewards for readers. Some libraries also offer reading discussion groups, where people get together and discuss a particular book title.

Many librarians are also excellent sources of information, who are able to help you on your quest for the right book, audio or video material for your personal use, interest group, or for that presentation at work.

The Public Library – A Job-Seeker’s Best Friend

Technology is everywhere these days. It’s hard to get any sort of job that doesn’t require at least a basic knowledge of e-mail and word processing programs. Any position working with data generally requires using Excel, and many administrative positions require someone familiar with PowerPoint and Publisher.

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, or your previous positions didn’t require using these programs, how are you supposed to learn? One resource that many people don’t consider is the public library. Libraries across the country now offer classes, ranging from computer basics like typing to more complex topics such as using PowerPoint to create presentations. Some localities offer more advanced classes like digital photography and grant writing. Certain libraries even offer one-on-one tutoring with a teacher. Best of all, classes at public libraries are almost always free, although some require you to have a current library card for that locality.

Perhaps you already have strong fundamental computer skills, but you need to learn a certain program in order to get the job you want. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re interested in going into project management, but you don’t know how to use Microsoft Project. A simple solution? Check out Microsoft Project for Dummies from the public library. If you’re in marketing and want to break into e-marketing, there are also books like The Truth About Search Engine Optimization. If you’re going into business for yourself for the first time, books such as Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business can be a valuable resource.

In addition to offering classes and books on numerous technology topics, almost all public libraries provide Internet access, with many offering wifi as well. If you live in a smaller town with no businesses such as a Kinko’s nearby, the library is also an excellent resource for printing and copying services. As an added bonus, libraries frequently have mailboxes outside, allowing you to immediately send your resumes on their way.

Your local public library contains many low-cost resources for your job search. Whether or not finances are tight during your job search, the library can be your best friend!

Solving the Public Relations Puzzle

You often hear people refer to public relations or PR as something positive or negative that a company received in response to an action. “Wow, they got good PR out of that!” But, what exactly does that mean?

The confusion about what public relations is or what it encompasses is not surprising given that the field is so multi-faceted. Research will show that the term public relations is often grouped under marketing and used synonymously with others such as community relations, media relations, public affairs, image enhancement, publicity, and promotion.

In fact, leading experts in the PR field often disagree, offering numerous definitions for clarification. Rex Harlow, a pioneer in public relations education, complied over 500 definitions from a variety of sources ranging from complex essays to simple descriptions. One of my favorites is, “PR stands for Performance and then Recognition.”

In 1981, the Public Relations Society of America attempted to end the confusion, by forming a task force with the mission of defining public relations once and for all. They landed on this concise definition, “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to one another. It is an organizations efforts to win the cooperation of groups of people.”

But the real question is, why does this matter? Why should I understand and have a need for public relations in my business? Authors Cutlip, Center, & Broom offer some help to these questions. In the sixth edition of their reference book, Effective Public Relations, They state that public relations is, “the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom it’s success or failure depend.”

This definition is great in that it, first, identifies that public relations does not just happen. It is truly a function that must be created. Second, this definition contains the key phrase, “success or failure.” This is why public relations efforts are so essential. How your company interacts with and represents itself to the world will determine the fate of your company.

We know that the definition of public relations is ever evolving and often disputed. However, there is one clear and common thread that is woven throughout these definitions. They all involve relationships and interactions. Simply put, public relations is all about communication. It is working to produce effective communication designed to influence, provide information, and gain understanding.

Perhaps the most understood public relations action is use of the media to communicate with and promote to target markets. Submitting press releases, gaining exposure, and developing promotional campaigns is something we can sink our teeth into. However, it is important not to confuse advertising and public relations. Advertising is a paid tool that can be used to support public relations efforts. When used effectively together, the two can make a powerful team.

Keep in mind that media relations and publicity are just a few of the many areas of public relations. Effective communications need to occur with all of your “publics” both internal and external. For example, your business cannot function without clear understanding and communication with your bankers, investors, and/or board members. You depend on a relationship with your local community to support your efforts. And, you rely upon your employees to support your image. Public relations involves developing and implementing a successful communication plan to work with and among these groups for the benefit of all.

And, what happens when things don’t turn out as planned? Enter public relations again! Public relations efforts must be pro-active in order to protect the image and reputation of the company. From crisis planning to the simple development of clear responses to community questions, it is in the best interest of the company and their publics to be prepared.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about public relations is that the field itself has a poor image. For some, the term PR tends to conjure up thoughts of deceptive and self-serving rhetoric. They picture obnoxious, celebrity press agents of today who believe that any press is good press. Some picture historical event promoters such as P.T. Barnum, of Barnum & Bailey Circus, who use exaggeration and hype to entertain.

Unfortunately, it is true that not everyone engaging in public relations activities is acting in the best public interest. But it is also important to understand there are wonderful, ethical, and positive public relations actions taking place all around us. In fact, without them, we would be a lost society.

The art of public relations is one that has deep and historical roots. In a sense, it’s as old as communication itself. Government, religion, and business have and always will rely on public relations. Think about it, what would be different in our world if the Catholic Church hadn’t taught its priests to “propagate” the faith? Without communications developed to influence targeted publics, how would we be persuaded to accept the authority of government leaders or to take a position on a public issue? We can even thank event promoters in ancient Athens for building the foundation for special event planning of today. It takes the same basic public relations skills to promote the Olympics then that it does now…now that’s an event!

Public relations efforts are essential to business success and growth. And, opportunities to use public relations activities to better your company and your bottom-line are endless. Ann Landers point out, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them!” Don’t make this mistake by ignoring the power of public relations. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.