Interview with a Communications Expert

Christina Cumba

image credit: Syc Creations

It’s 1 pm, I have just grabbed myself a snack, and I am now pondering on whether to call Ms. Cumba right away as we had or give myself some courage before doing it. See, the thing with busy people is that they may just brush off your call and give you excuses later. Anyway, I go ahead and press the call button:

Me: Hi Ms. Cumba, it’s Nouf, you told me…

Ms. Cumba: (Cuts me short) Ooh yeah, Nouf from the PR class, I remember you contacted me yesterday, how are you?

Amazing! That’s how you know you are talking to a communication expert – they always remember, are always cheerful and in most cases ready to listen and help. To me, the interview just got off to the best start I could possibly imagine.

I begin the interview by asking the most basic question: what’s a typical week like? She tells me that after getting into the office, the first thing is to do an overview of the previous days and find out the progress of any project. The week is filled with numerous meetings, and tedious work and one must always be on toes. One important thing to note, however, is that the beginnings and endings of the week are the most exhausting. On one hand, there is the pressure to complete clients’ products, and on the other, one has to begin on new products and schedule for the following week.

Ms. Cumba’s proudest moment was when she did her first project alongside other new employees, and hers got the most approval from the boss. Well, all ladies love complementary remarks, I think to myself, but she tells me that at that moment, she realized that she had the capability to reach greater heights. However, according to Ms. Cumba, one has to know as many people in the communications industry when starting out. It is easier to get a job and guidance that way. In fact, that is the only thing she wishes she’d known before beginning her career. Nevertheless, she was lucky to have supporting workmates and a boss who allowed her to learn from her mistakes and get her career up and running.

As students, most times we are ignorant of the concepts we learn in class thinking they will not help us in the future. Ms. Cumba tells a different story. According to her, every new day opens her up to something she learned in college and which is necessary for performing a given task.

“My education has contributed to my work in the field a lot more than I had previously expected. Because communication involves every aspect of life, I believe there won’t be one thing I learn in college that I won’t be using or performing in the future,” she says.

A good communications expert must be an excellent writer. Writing is as important in post production as having one’s camera when going to shoot: “What is there to shoot without without a camera, and what is a video without a story,” She remarks. One must know how to write for the listeners and the viewers.

Since she is still new in the post production field, she notes that a lot has not changed. However, she attests to the importance of technology in her career. Technology is everything to her, and she must adapt and learn new ways of doing things using the latest available technology. Coming to think of it, I find her career to be interesting despite the loads of work she claims are associated with it. While she is not a member of the PRSA or IABC, she is part of Syc Creations, an Indiana State University creative digital multimedia and marketing team.

We’ve been on the phone for close to 30 minutes, and I feel it is time to let Ms. Cumba take a rest. After all, she’s a busy person. However, before hanging up, she leaves me with these few words:

“Hey Nouf, remember, no one can put you down. Once you want something, go for it. Trust me; you won’t fail if you do your best!”

I am now pumped up and ready to dream bigger. I couldn’t ask for more.


Ms. Christina Cumba is a Multimedia Assistant Director of Student Media at the Indiana State University.

Office hours: MWF 1:00-2:30/ TTh 11:00-1:30














Plagiarism at its best! Melania Trump’s PR Gaffe


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The election campaigns leading up to the November 8, 2016, polls were filled with drama, controversies and public relations dilemmas never witnessed before. In fact, the world ‘crazy’ would be best suited to describe those campaigns. Both candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had their fair share of controversies. When one’s controversial emails were leaked, the other was being accused of being a misogynist. However, one rather shocking PR mistake that rocked the Trump’s camp was committed by Melania Trump. In her speech at the 2016 National Convention of the Republicans, Mrs. Trump was accused of lifting a whole two paragraphs from Michelle Obama’s speech during the 2012 Democrats Convention while campaigning for President Barack Obama.
How did Trump’s camp react? Well, at first they refused to give any comment regarding the matter before coming with a story later on. Apparently, Meredith McIver, the speechwriter forgot to proofread the speech before handing it over to Mrs. Trump; hence, the occurrence to plagiarism. Other than taking the blame, she also reiterated that Melania Trump was one of Mrs. Obama’s biggest fans and that is the reason she picked some parts belonging to her speech.
Was the PR crisis handled correctly? Partly yes, and partly no. Let’s start with the latter. In today’s world, the internet and media are quick to demand answers for everything that happens around them. If they do not find the information they need, they will publish whatever they have and the long-term repercussions may be too much to bear as far as reputational damage is concerned. As a result, “No Comment” is not answer one would have to give every time when confronted with reporters. The one cardinal rule that exists in today’s PR world is: Tell it all and it fast. Therefore, one thing I would have done differently would have been to release a statement with the little facts at hand as fast as I could.
On the other hand, although no one is sure whether the speechwriter was merely a scapegoat used to calm down the crisis, the move was well done. Noting that Melania Trump adored Michelle Obama was a big plus and probably endeared Donald Trump to some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters. It showed that there was a huge respect for the Obama’s – who were affiliated with Hillary Clinton – from Donald Trump’s camp.
What, therefore, do we learn from this PR gaffe? – That the era of not commenting on issues is long gone, and it may not always work – not with today’s media.

Tell it all and tell it fast!

Getting your PR campaign right


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Public Relations professionals’ main concern is to develop excellent relations between the organization and its publics. In other words, it is all about getting the audiences to subscribe to the organization’s ideas, albeit in an honest. Yes, there are no two ways about it; honesty is key to earning credibility from all the stakeholders. Nevertheless, gaining approval of the publics is pretty difficult, especially when people have formed opinions. But, with an effective public relations campaign strategy, an organization may find itself on the right side of everyone’s ‘attitude-meter.’ Here are some five tips for developing an effective public relations campaign.

Know the organization’s current position

Understanding oneself is always important before making any move. In this situation, have a clear understanding of the PR climate of the organization. In other words, how to the external and internal environments of the organization influence its current public image. As usual, discuss with the management to find out more. Your plan should, therefore, be based on improving this current situation.

Establish clear goals and objectives

Having understood the organization’s situation, it is time to create goals that will be accomplished when the plan is implemented. As usual, the goals ought to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Oriented. Lastly, do not develop many goals at a time; three to five would do.

Know your audiences

Have the knowledge of who you are trying to communicate to or reach with the intended campaign. Defining the audience is imperative in ensuring the right results are possible. Moreover, keep in mind what the senior officials want from the campaign.

Choose the best weapon mix

Just like a samurai warrior heading out for a battle knows where to place his swords and when to use them, a PR professional ought to understand the appropriate channels that may be effective in reaching his audiences. In a world filled with numerous channels, getting the right channel mix is critical. For example, one could decide to back television PR ads with a strong social media campaign. Ultimately, it all depends on the situation and type of audience. Each situation requires a unique approach.

Develop appropriate measuring and evaluation methods

Before implementing the campaign, understand how to measure the results and progress. Is it reaching the right audiences? Has it been welcomed well? If so, how do you know that it has changed the company’s earlier position? In short, all these questions have to be answered; hence, finding ways to arrive at those answers is significant.

As a bonus, always be committed to the PR campaign. A campaign cannot work by itself if hard work and commitment are not infused into it!

PRSSA: More than just an association


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It is often said that becoming a doctor or a lawyer is a calling, and probably that is why they are revered professions. If that is the case, then Public Relations is also a higher calling. In fact, Public Relations officers save organizations from making mistakes that may harm their success and objectives. Public relations is an interesting field that keeps one connected to many important stakeholders in the business world. Most of these stakeholders are members of the PRSA and were probably once members of the PRRSA. Therefore, what is the PRSSA?

The PRRSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) is a sub-branch of the Public Relations Society of America that is meant for college students who have dreams of becoming public relations professionals in the future. Joining the PRSSA has several benefits for any particular student.

Successful completion of college education requires that one attends an internship program. Well, being a member of the PRSSA opens a student to the possibility of getting an internship easily. One simply needs to upload his/her resume to the PRSA website and get considered for an internship program. The hectic search associated with looking for an internship disappears.

Occasionally, the PRSA organizes events where PR gurus from all over the country meet up and deliberate on some of the pertinent issues in Public Relations. For a PRSSA student, such events provide one with an opportunity to network with PR professionals. Networking may come in handy when one finishes college and requires a referral. A little professional advice from a PR guru is also significant for a student’s career development objective.

Finally, the PRSA offers members of the junior association – PRSSA – a chance to earn scholarships and awards. However, they are not just for everyone, but those who are excellent performers in school. That is just but an added incentive to study hard and who would not want to get a scholarship anyway? Well, folks, if you have not registered for the PRSSA, you might want to consider the benefits above.