Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A New Image: Cultivating Culture & Class in America

Public relations campaigns are everywhere and everyone seems to be a part of them. Whether for a political campaign, club opening or even a new product line, they seem to surround us and remain an integral part of the public relations world. While PR campaigns seem to play a vital role in the futures of politicians, celebrities and even Fortune 500 companies, maybe the one most in need of a PR campaign and image overhaul is a significant global power and world leader that we are all-too-familiar with. It may be considered a substantial undertaking and even unnecessary to some, but perhaps the “one” in need of a new image is our own country- the United States of America.

I had barely recovered from jet lag and only tasted a few bites of my first wiener schnitzel in Austria this summer before I was slapped in the face. No, I was not slapped by an angry Austrian man sporting lederhosen who suggested I drink more “house beer,” but rather by reality, and the reality was this: the Europeans were more consciously aware of the daily happenings on Wall Street or in the Senate than most Americans. They blew me away with more statistics, figures and opinions than I could ever imagine and wanted to discuss politics wherever we went. It did not matter if we were at a downtown café drinking cappuccinos or hiking in the Alps, they wanted to talk about our life, culture and political scene whenever I would allow it. While this knowledge and curiosity piqued my interest, I was left to answer some unsettling questions, but one stands out in my mind.

"Why are you bothering to learn a second language?  No one else in the United States does..."

That last question struck the wrong chord with me, especially after considering the fact that I was in Austria studying advanced German. However, it left me wondering: if the rest of the world regards us as dumb, lazy and wasteful Americans (as I was told by many Europeans), why don’t we do something as a country to change this general perception? While a public relations campaign focusing on America’s image might not be considered a high priority on Obama’s agenda with an economic crisis at hand, it might not be such a bad issue to tackle in the near future. What better way to erase the stereotypical image of overweight Americans driving Hummers to McDonald’s than by creating a public relations campaign focusing on educating Americans about literature, art, music and secondary languages?

While the White House is filled with many advisors scurrying about, telling the president what to say and how to maintain his image, perhaps the greatest advantage to any president is not the PR professional, but rather… the president’s spouse.

Let’s look back to the 1960s, a time when the United States was dealing with the Cuban missile crisis and nuclear policy causing rocky relations with France. Despite these troubles, one of President John F. Kennedy’s finest attributes was not his youth or charm, but rather his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, who acted as a magnificent public relations asset.

President Kennedy was barely inaugurated on snow-covered Capitol Hill in January of 1961 when Jacqueline Kennedy began her White House “transformation” with a goal to make the White House a “showcase for great American art and artists.” Her plan for establishing culture and class in America came into full swing after an official presidential trip to Paris.

While JFK and French President Charles de Gaulle were at odds over the development of nuclear weapons, Jackie was wowing the people of France. Before their arrival, Jackie had the White House press secretary arrange an interview with French national television where she spoke in fluent French for 15 minutes over her love of the arts and Paris. This public relations endeavor proved successful, as Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy were greeted by a crowd of 500,000 Parisians, enthralled and captivated by the “first couple.” Jackie enraptured President de Gaulle, as well, as he later told JFK that she “knew more French history than most French women.”

If the PR world had a hall of fame, Jacqueline Kennedy’s next PR feat would be in it. After her Paris visit, not only did she continue to nurture the relationship between France and the U.S. as the First Lady, she began promoting art, literature and music in America by inviting France’s Minister of Cultural Affairs, André Malraux, to the White House.

Some may claim event planning is not part of the PR world, but Jackie was one woman who could successfully pull off a political agenda and throw a lavish affair flawlessly. Prior to Malraux’s visit, Jackie spent five weeks meticulously planning his visit. She met Malraux at the National Gallery of Art (also a great press photo opportunity) where she gave him her own personal tour and spoke of the international significance of great art.

Mrs. Kennedy united the cultural world that night. In Malraux’s honor, she planned an extravagant state dinner where America’s finest artists, writers and musicians were brought together. As described in Vanity Fair, “The gathering of the most accomplished men and women of the American cultural scene not only underscored Kennedys’ support of the arts, but also demonstrated how adept Jackie was at employing the arts in order to add prestige to Jack’s presidency.”

And the result of such a grand evening? Minister Malraux agreed to make arrangements to have Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, Mona Lisa, brought to America which was the only time France had ever willingly agreed to let their beloved work visit another country.

The arrival of the Mona Lisa began to inspire America and made a lasting impression on Kennedy’s time in office. The masterpiece attracted millions of Americans, engaging and interesting them in art. As Arthur Schlesinger described, it was an exhilarating time in which “Washington engaged in a collective effort to make itself brighter, gayer, and more intellectual. The First Lady was at the center of this new feeling.”

Jackie touched the nation. She spoke superb French, enjoyed the arts, read masterpieces, entertained often and inspired women with her impeccable style and flair. Jacqueline Kennedy established the new American ideal. President Kennedy took his place on the international stage, but he did not do so alone like many presidents of the past. He made his mark on the world with Jackie at his side who acted not only as a wife, mother, and an art enthusiast, but as a diplomat, ambassador and First Lady.

Jacqueline Kennedy is still regarded as one of the greatest First Ladies of our time. And although she may not officially possess the title, she was an exquisite public relations practitioner who not only promoted art, literature, music and other cultures, but also established a new standard of living for the American way of life.

Reinstating this way of life and restoring America’s tarnished reputation should not be hard to accomplish, especially considering that our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, is regarded by some as the next Jacqueline Kennedy. This Princeton and Harvard Law grad is not only well-educated, but she also possesses an innate sense of style, similar to Jackie’s, and could be the chief proprietor in re-inventing America’s image.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Get A Personality

Throughout my years as a student, I've heard teachers and practitioners alike ask students why they want to enter the field of public relations. And much to my dismay, the answer usually involves the term "people person." Why do people believe that in order to be successful in the realm of public relations, they must describe themselves using this vague and unimpressive term?

Urban dictionary defines a "people person" as "someone who has no discernable skills." While Urban dictionary may not be the definitive source for word meanings, no one wants to use a word with this connotation to describe themselves, especially when seeking a job within the field of public relations.

According to Patricia Zonta's article, there are many character and personality qualities that make a person well-suited for a career in public relations. Anyone who is creative, tactful, energetic, optimistic, respectful, ethical, or honest possesses qualities that would be an asset in the public relations field.  It takes all types of people to make this world work, but some personality types are found to be more beneficial for work in public relations.

The Myers-Briggs Personality-Type Indicator  shows that the following types of people are very well-suited for a public relations career:
  • ENFJ also known as The Giver
  • INTJ also known as The Scientist
  • INFJ also known as The Protector
The U.S. Department of Labor--Bureau of Statistics notes, "Public relations specialists must show creativity, initiative, and good judgment and have the ability to communicate thoughts clearly and simply. Decision-making, problem-solving, and research skills also are important. People who choose public relations as a career need an outgoing personality, self-confidence, an understanding of human psychology, and an enthusiasm for motivating people. They should be competitive, yet able to function as part of a team and be open to new ideas."

It takes a person with a variety of "discernable" skills to be successful in public relations, so don't sell yourself short. You can do more than just talk to people, so make sure that people know how valuable your skills are. The most important thing to remember is to choose the skills that come most naturally to you and begin further developing them. The more skills you develop, the more desirable job candidate you will be. Quit being a "people person" and start becoming a person that people want to employ. 

Kristin McDonald

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Biggest Threats Facing PR

Earlier this year, when reading a colleague’s blog post, it occurred to me that there are some very real threats facing us as PR Practitioners, both in terms of detriment to the field and harm to third party participants.

I am accustomed to thinking that there are no real threats, just challenges that are in need of adaptive approaches or strategies. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade… if life gives you oranges, make orange juice… and so forth and so on through the list of palatable fruits.

But the article about the danger of the site made me think about the very real impacts of making sites available that destroy the efforts of PR. At first, you might think that putting the power in the hands of regular media consumers would be good- that it might help keep things accountable, and if something horrible happens, we simply do our jobs as usual and get things back on track.

No, sites like these have proven records of direct physical harm to the users and their families/friends. Juicy Campus has led to depression and suicidal tendencies. YouTube has fostered a subculture of users who record children beating each other up. Facebook has developed a generation of users who stalk long lost acquaintances down.

The point is not that the users themselves or the tools they use are the sole threats. The threat is that together, unchecked, unmediated, without that set of risk and strategic management skills that PR fosters, not only will we suffer as PR practitioners, but society will begin to see a degradation in moral fiber.

However, this will also hurt us directly—in the same way that the media is and has been hurting us as well through lack of proper and adequate representation or understanding of what it is we do.

In the movie “Phonebooth,” a moderately entertaining psychological thriller about a man trapped in a phone booth by a terrorist, the man claims to practice PR as a “publicist.” This man’s daily routines involve twisting the truth, bribing, manipulation and complete dishonesty in order to only be considered “small time.” He uses the words “public relations” and “publicist” very clearly.

This stereotype is reinforced in shows like “Spin City” and movies like “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,” often mistakenly combining the field with the field of advertising. While these are usually light-hearted and acceptable, we all know the dangers of mistaking the definition of PR from impressions on the silver screen and that PR is not “evil,” as the media may portray it. What we do not realize is its very real effect on those who don’t realize its falsity, and whom are now looking for revenge – a power put in their hands by the social networks, the online media platforms and the many blog sites available online.

We are in danger of being replaced by a subculture that does not believe we are necessary, but who do not have the facts, the training or the mindset to argue back effectively. They don’t need their facts checked, and they don’t have to care for another human being – they just have to have an agenda.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The PR Department... A thing of the past?

Currently, the economy is not at its best. This may be the most obvious declaration you have read in quite some time. Our daily activities consist of eating, sleeping, working and being reminded of how the economy is ruining our lives. However, there are underlying aspects to this statement that some may fail to initially recognize. One of which is local outsourcing. The job market relies heavily on the economy, and in times such as these, we are seeing shifts in the common practices of big business. 

When a company’s budget gets tight, it is no secret that the public relations and advertising department is the first to get the ax. As PR students and practitioners working in the industry, it is important to be aware of potential cutbacks and actions companies take throughout the aftermath. 
The Turner Broadcasting Company in Atlanta, Ga., has recently had to trim down their amount of employees. Being the successful mega-business that they are, Turner acknowledged that though the payroll was getting shorter, they still had to produce the same end results. Here enter syndication and outsourcing. 

Among others, Career Sports and Entertainment was hired by Turner to create quality results equal to in-house production. Career is a private marketing agency in Atlanta, Ga., located literally down the road from the broadcasting company. 

Hiring private PR, talent and/or production firms to do the work, pay the workers, package the results and deliver it to your door is more cost efficient than in-house labor. Turner has inadvertently presented some of their staff with two options: either do the work of two to three people or accept the act of outsourcing. 

The efficient practice of outsourcing is nothing new. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have been searching for ways to raise productivity and profit.

However, we normally equate the topic with the global market, not the local business down the street. This traditional view of international outsourcing has shielded our eyes from local practices that, eventually, may affect your company and more importantly, your job. 

Our present economy has led people to worry about their livelihoods by the masses. Outsourcing is not the most frightening practice we are experiencing, but it adds discomfort and confusion to stressful times. 

The ideal situation would be to keep every employee on staff and hire private firms when projects call for collaboration or specific talents. Except, things are not looking so ideal in the big business world, and realistic adjustments are being implemented. 

Whether I am a 22-year-old PR student, eager to enter the job market, or a 46-year-old company MVP, the current job cuts cause one to question her occupational future. 
Will the company PR/Advertising department become a thing of the past, leaving private PR firms to reap the benefits? Or, will outsourcing plateau and become a steady, healthy practice?

-Meredith C. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Free Giveaways!!!

Who doesn’t love freebies?! We all do, whether it’s a pencil, bumper sticker or food. There is no better way to win over people than with free stuff. Offering anything free is a sure fire way to draw attention too. That’s what several companies did for this year’s Presidential Election.

The 2008 Presidential Election was one of the most historic elections ever. There has been so much excitement and interest in this election. Possibly, one of the more exciting parts of voting this year is the free stuff.

In conjunction with the historical significance of this year’s election, several companies offered free items for those who voted. For simply voting, Starbucks offered its customers a free cup of coffee. Krispy Kreme stores rewarded voters with one star-shaped doughnut. Ben and Jerry’s gave away a free scoop of ice cream between the hours of 5-6 p.m.

The concept of freebies is nothing new, of course. However, more companies are utilizing this method as means to promote the company, to engage customers and to show social responsibility. Starbucks’ idea for offering free coffee was suggested on their online forum site, The move by Starbucks demonstrates their move to actively engage their customers, as well as form lasting relationships with their customers.

Another company, Taco Bell, launched the campaign, Steal a Base, Steal a Taco, recently offering their customers free tacos. Taco Bell’s promotion coincided with the Major League Baseball World Series. This effort helped to promote the MLB World Series, whose viewing numbers were down, and promote Taco Bell. Collaborative campaigns such as Steal a Base, Steal a Taco often brings together two unlikely forces to meet a common goal. In addition, Dr Pepper will give away a free can of Dr Pepper to everyone in American when Gun’s N Roses releases their “Chinese Democracy” album. Dr Pepper also launched a blog in conjunction with its offer. Like Starbucks, Dr Pepper is employing social media to connect with their customers.

Freebies and giveaways provide a simple yet efficient method to increase awareness of a company. Freebies can also have a positive reflection on the company by showing social responsibility, like Ben and Jerry’s, Krispy Kreme and Starbucks. By offering free items for voters, Ben and Jerry’s, Krispy Kreme and Starbucks come across as being involved in the issues in America and show social responsibility. Furthermore, freebies can positively promote a company, and bring in new customers. Overall, freebies are a win-win situation. Everyone involved has the chance to benefit.


Monday, November 3, 2008

WOM- A useful technique for PR?

Remember back when you were in elementary school and a rumor started at the lunch table that got passed down through 20 kids in a matter of seconds?

Well, word travels fast and people have been using the method for hundreds of years. Benjamin Franklin, the father of advertising art, first coined the term back in the 1700s when he utilized it for spreading the word about politics and new technologies.

Today, many public relations professionals are using the word-of-mouth method. PR focuses on building relationships with individuals in hopes to create a good relationship with organizations. It all has to start with one person relaying the message on to another and so on.

Social media acts as a word-of-mouth method (better known as “word-of-mouse”) whereas features utilized on the Internet spread from one person to the other in a matter of seconds. Twitter and YouTube are accessed by millions of people everyday and people are sharing the information from these social media outlets by sending them to friends and colleagues.

Some companies do not use any type of advertising and bank on their employers to spread the word. MonaVie, a company that sells the premier acai juice blend, uses the word-of-mouth method. There are no commercials, no selling in stores on shelves—only sharing of stories behind the juice. After getting on board to become a Mona Vei distributor, that person is responsible for telling others about the juice personally and giving taste testing and informational meetings on their own. No use of advertising is necessary except a virtual office for people to buy the juice on their own.

“You are sending a message not selling a product,” independent distributor Tyler Wilson said. “MonaVie wants to inform people about the health benefits of drinking this premier juice blend.” The company’s slogan is “Drink it, feel it, share it.”

It is all about sharing the message and developing relationships with clients, which is the best way from a PR standpoint. The employers are not working as salesman, but almost as public relations correspondents. Each distributor works as a liaison to the company, providing good PR in their local communities and connecting them to one big beneficial organization.

MonaVie also created their own foundation called the More Foundation that builds homes, schools and hospitals in the Amazon. It also helps preserve 25 percent of the rain forest because that is where the berries are grown and a large part of the world’s oxygen comes from there.

Another percentage (50) of the company’s profit goes to their distributors every “Good Friday,” due to its compensation plan as a new binary system. MonaVie hit the billion dollar mark in two and a half years and is the fastest growing company in history. It even took Microsoft a good 10 years before it hit the billion dollar mark.

So, is there a little something that we can learn from word-of-mouth methods? I think so, public relations has always used this technique, but not on such a large scale. There is still a big difference in relational marketing and public relations, but I think both principles combined could result in success.

Bulldog Daily Reporter- PR University offers WOM strategies in accordance to its claim that social media is changing the conventional marketing of word of mouth and is “reinventing public relations.” Bulldog also offers information on how the modern form of WOM can be incorporated into traditional PR, campaigns that “show how these techniques drive brand and the bottom line,” using “word of mouse,” finding other WOM users and how to stay up-to-date with online WOM (Second Life, Twitter and wikis).

By Stephanie S.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Detroit Day 3, 4 & 5 Photos

The final pictures from the 2008 PRSSA Convention:

It rode shot gun from the Hilton to the Airport! 

The project board had a wonderful trip to Detroit. Some how it gained a pound?

Well, it was fun until I had to bring it all back to Tuscaloosa.

After the awards ceremony at the Detroit Institute of Art. I had no idea Detroit had such great art by Monet, Van Gough, Cassat and Degas, just to name a few. 

Our project board!! Special thanks to Jacob and all the Platform team members, it went over so well!! 

Chevy Volt, which GM made available for us to check out at our opening night social. 

PR Legends Discussion L to R: John (Jack) Felton, Debra Miller, John Bailey, and Steven Harris

After the PRSA Legends panel, waiting on Craig Newmark of Craigslist.

More pictures can be viewed here.

Detroit Day 2-Photos

Sorry it has taken so long to get these up!

Comerica park-- home of the Detroit Tigers! 

We ended our night at the Fox Theater taking pictures! 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Financial Crisis or Moral Crisis?

USA Today recently pointed out that corporate apologies are becoming more and more rare in the face of the current economic crisis. The article argues that CEOs see admitting blame as a sign of weakness, even though the article claims that “In 2004, professors from the University of Michigan and Stanford University found that companies that accepted blame for poor performance in annual reports were more likely to outperform the market the following year.”

The most recent public apology in my memory was when Jose Canseco expressed regret over the effects of his book, “Juiced,” an exposé on steroid use in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately for Canseco, his apology is too little too late. An investigation into steroid use in baseball has tainted the reputation of the sport and many of the players mentioned in his book as steroid users have had their reputations, careers and Hall of Fame chances destroyed by Canseco’s claims.

When will an apology be too little too late for the major firms involved in the financial crisis?

Linda Stomato of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution defines an apology simply in the Ivey Business Journal article “Should Business Leaders Apologize? Why, When and How an Apology Matters”:
“An apology can acknowledge that an injury or damage has occurred. It may include acceptance of responsibility for the mistake; express regret, humility or remorse in the language one chooses; explain the role he, she or they played; ask for forgiveness; and include a credible commitment to change or a promise that the act won’t occur again.”
Stomato also claims that “Apologizing by admitting a mistake—to co-workers, employees, customers, clients, the public at large—tends to gain credibility and generate confidence in one’s leadership. Acting defensively, on the other hand, undermines it.”

If an apology and a place to lay blame restores trust when made in a timely fashion, would that not restore the missing confidence that is tearing the economy apart?

The issue is, understandably, a legal one for the failed firms. Admitting a mistake may not bode well for the company if legal action is taken as a result of the ongoing investigation into the cause of this crisis. This is where a firm’s values come into play, leaving each one with two options:

1. Apologize, admit any mistakes, accept responsibility and outline a plan that will not allow it to happen again. This option risks future legal action, but holds promise of increased consumer confidence and a resulting upswing in the economy.
2. Don’t apologize, avoid litigation and ride out the disaster.

Should a firm work for the social good or for the avoidance of legal action?

Johnson & Johnson’s apology for the 1982 poisoning of Tylenol made the company a PR legend and gave it a socially responsible image. Steve Jobs’ apology to consumers who bought a higher-priced iPhone when the price was cut and his subsequent rectification of the situation proved that Apple is a consumer-oriented corporation. Apologies in the past have been good things.

When will we see an apology, anyone willing to accept responsibility, for the financial crisis? Maybe never. Maybe too little, too late.

Until then, consumers are left to conjure confidence in the economy from somewhere else, but I have yet to see anything that warrants it.

Jessica A.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Detroit Day Two

Hello everyone! This is a short summary of the Day Two activities that I attended at the 2008 PRSSA Convention. 

This morning started off with a continental breakfast followed by the key note address by Ofield Dukes. Dukes wears many hats, he taught at Howard University for 17 years, he has been a communication consultant for every presidential campaign since 1972, and he also started his own PR firm, Ofield and Associates. He delivered a timely and inspiring address about the state of the nation and public relations' role in the economic recession. He said that we all need to tighten our belts, but we will get through this recession like we have throughout American history. He also discussed the need for us, as students, to keep up with the social media revolution. 

He called the book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie the "public relations bible". He said that he required his Howard University students to read the book as part of their introduction to public relations course. He talked about how it is easier to make friends if you are interested in them, rather than trying to make them interested in yourself. 

After Dukes finished speaking, the first lady of PR Ms. Betsy Plank spoke for a brief moment about the history of the public relations student society. She's a PR celebrity in that as soon as she stood and walked to the podium everyone started talking pictures of her. It was like the crowd suddenly woke up on this cold Detroit morning. 

After Plank spoke, the each national committee member spoke about the different projects that they had been working on. Then, we had roll call. A lot of universities made snippy comments about each others' football teams. It just so happened that we were sitting in front of Tennessee. We did a big Bama spell out followed by a resounding "Roll Tide Roll". 

After the long roll call, (there are 290 PRSSA chapters) we went to lunch before the first sessions started. 

The first session I attended was the "Motor City Metamorphosis", it featured a panelists of public relations professionals from each of the "big three" automotive manufacturers. The conference is sponsored by GM and is in the GM Renaissance Center. They are also allowing PRSSA members that are 21 or older to test drive the new GM hybrid vehicles in downtown Detroit. I didn't have time to make it by there today, but I will before the conference is over.  Anyway, I say all this to point out that during the discussion the "big three" panel was moderated by another GM public relations person. The person from Chrysler had only been in her position since July 1st. The gentleman from Ford had no background in public relations, prior to beginning his employment at Ford about a year and half ago. The GM person on the panel had been with GM for 22 years. At one point the GM moderator turned the audience and asked which of the "big three" advertising campaigns could be recalled. Not surprisingly, from inside the GM Renaissance Center, the students could only recall GM advertising campaigns. 

The next session I attended was the Health Care PR session. It was very interesting I throughly enjoyed the crisis communication aspect. One particularly interesting situation that she spoke about was a patient being shot inside their hospital room.  She said that she greeted this situation some what differently than most crisis situations. Typically, she said, you would send the CEO out to speak with the media, but in this case, the CEO went to each patient's room and reassured the patients of their safety during their hospital stays. She said that she set-up camp in the waiting room at the hospital and kept the media constantly updated. She said that because of this, not many of them attempted to interview hospital employees or other patients. 

Finally, I attended the Internal Communication session. While this session was also taught by a healthcare profession, it was about developing campaigns for the use of internal employees. internal communications is an interested aspect of public relations, as most of the professionals whom fall into that field report to human resources people. This field is big in healthcare public relations right now because of the nursing shortage. 

I am looking forward to an exciting third day of posting and light twittering!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Detroit Day One: Part Two

Finally, we rode the people mover back to the hotel. It was an interesting experience. Think the monorail at Disney World meets the extreme urban life. We meet another student who helped planned the conference from Eastern Michigan University. She gave us tips for places to eat. Apparently, there is a restaurant close to our hotel that serves "southern" food. There will be a PRSA/PRSSA impromptu twitters'(?) meet-up there tomorrow night. 

We sat with Tennessee at the Motown social.  We gave out our Bama stuff, including shoe laces, pins, pens, note pads and pencils. Everyone else had better stuff than us! I got tons of pens from schools like University of Northern Iowa and the University of Tennessee. I got a cup from Penn. State (those girls were very nice! They are the proud new owners of Bama shoe laces). I got a Frisbee and lots of candy. I think the stand out of the event was the University of Florida, they gave me a tee shirt and messenger bag!! The tee shirt has 10 things PR people are NOT. 
The view from the Renaissance Center. Notice the buildings on the opposite side of the river? They're actually in Canada. You can either walk to Canada from downtown, take a bridge over or go in a tunnel under the river.

The entrance to the conference rooms.

For more PRSSA/PRSA event coverage check us out on Twitter-- platformmag and also check out 

Detroit Day One Photos

Casino in Greektown. We are staying in Greektown in the Hilton. Detroit has tons of casinos. We ate at the Pizza Palace and I got some yummy looking cake from the Astoria Bakery. More to come...

Downtown Detroit. The round tall building is where the convention will be taking place. The GM Renaissance Center.

Tunnel to baggage claim in the Airport. It's like one of those pianos from the movie Big, it makes random noises as you ride through on the moving walkways, it's really long, maybe the length of a football field.

Pounds of luggage and Promo stuff + Project board

Monday, October 20, 2008

Buzzword or Buzzkill

With the presidential election just days away and the final debate only a memory, we have seen numerous buzzwords and slogans thrown out there. Obama is begging for “change” at every campaign stop he makes and as the television show Saturday Night Live suggested, Palin and McCain’s references to the term “maverick” could be turned into a pretty successful drinking game. And who could forget from his frequent references to Scranton, Biden’s hometown?

We have also seen the emergence recently of a new player on the political field, Joe the Plumber. Replacing the Republican Party, and specifically Sarah Palin’s reliance on “Joe Six-pack,” Joe the Plumber is the new everyman the candidates are fighting over, or at least fighting for his vote.

But beyond all of this, there is yet another character that many may not even notice as he is being brought up in these same debates. ExxonMobil is taking a beating from both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. It has been mentioned at least six times during the debates as the enemy both parties can rally around. The company is one of the only things that they seem to agree on during these forums on disagreement.

While I have seen a commercial or two for the company and read a press release about their work in a hurricane stricken area of Texas, this is a time for ExxonMobil to really ramp up its PR efforts. With everyone against them, they must have some message positively portraying themselves to the American people. A few years ago, ExxonMobil was the only oil company to have its CEO appear for interviews when the three major stations were calling all oil companies to account, but this same company is now letting these candidates hurt their image without putting up a fight.

So where is the ExxonMobil of the past, responding to issues when the call was placed? But then again, with all the criticism they face now and have faced in the past, maybe two candidates in a 90 minute debate who occasionally express their dislike for ExxonMobil isn’t all that bad. And maybe the American people care more now about candidate’s buzzwords than when they call a company to task. Could it be possible that those paying attention to this race don’t even realize a company is being bashed when all we hear about on the news are mavericks asking Joes for change?

Martha G.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Celebrities Fight For A Cause

Celebrities define our culture. You buy a certain style of dress, brand of jeans, type of video game or cup of coffee because the celebrity you admire the most purchases that same kind. They serve not only as entertainers, but also as opinion leaders. Whether you agree with their views or not, chances are that you know what your favorite celebrities stand for and what they want to see accomplished. But their influence extends far past the realms of fashion, entertainment and politics.

In recent years, a new trend has emerged among celebrities: philanthropy. Celebrities have started using their wealth, influence and resources to fight for a cause. By channeling their energy toward a certain issue and supporting that cause, celebrities give the organization they stand for free publicity and PR. Their influence makes the cause they believe in popular within our culture, and thus they raise awareness and support just by joining the fight.

Over the past ten years, the following non-profit organizations and campaigns have emerged as some of the most popular among teenagers and young adults. And part of the reason for their popularity is celebrity endorsements and involvement.

TOMS shoes

This organization abides by the one for one idea. That is, for each pair of shoes that you purchase, TOMS will donate a pair to a child in need. Started by Blake Mycoskie in May 2006, TOMS has given 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and 50,000 pairs of shoes to children in South Africa. And helping Mycoskie to spur on this cause and complete its mission is the band, Hanson. They realized that their music, vision and a willingness to get involved could help promote TOMS. Hanson informed their fans about TOMSshoes and encouraged them to get involved.

Other celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Tobey Maguire, Lindsay Lohan and Brittany Murphy have been spotted wearing TOMS. By wearing these shoes, celebrities raise awareness for the cause and drive up demand for the product. These shoes, made of rubber and canvas, look like the opposite of what our culture considers high fashion. But because celebrities sport these shoes, TOMS have become the new look.


In 1997 after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation to equip cancer patients with the knowledge and confidence to become cancer survivors, not cancer victims. In 2005, Armstrong launched his famous LiveStrong wristband campaign to raise money and awareness for his foundation. The phrase “LiveStrong” is inscribed on a yellow wristband and sold all over the world. These wristbands have become widely-used for supporting other organizations and non-profits as well a new fashion trend among young adults. His innovation has encouraged cancer patients to keep on fighting and created new ways for other groups to promote their mission and raise money.

We All Have AIDS…If One of Us Does.

This slogan was coined to unite the plethora of HIV/AIDS organizations into a community with a single message. The We All Have AIDScampaign calls for an end to the HIV/AIDS stigma. “It is a powerful display of the unity and solidarity we all share with the 40 million men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS around the world.”

This campaign, launched on World AIDS Day in 2005 by Kenneth Cole, featured t-shirts (as worn by actor T.R. Knight) and advertisements appearing in over 200 magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. The campaign features celebrities such as Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Alicia Keys, Will Smith and Rosie O’Donnell. Without Cole’s connections and influence, this campaign might not have been possible.

Celebrities have always provided our society with gossip, laughter, fashion, style, music, movies, television, speeches and award shows. And now we can add service to the list. Celebrities serve our culture by being a driving force behind non-profit organizations and campaigns. Celebrities first entertained our world, and now they are changing our world.

Kristin McDonald

Monday, October 13, 2008

Couture, Catwalks, Controversy & Counterfeits

In the world of public relations and fashion, image seems to be everything. Your reputation, who you know, and in some cases, what you’re wearing can make or break you. The all-important question seems to be: how important is image? In the world of fashion PR, designers, companies and customers are going to great lengths to not only enhance their image, but in some cases, to protect it, too.

In recent years, the desire for designer goods has reached epic proportions as consumers are constantly trying to re-create the latest runway looks. It certainly does not help that images of celebrities sporting these designer frocks surround us wherever we go. One can not hide from Hollywood stars, such as Cameron Diaz, gracing the covers and pages US magazine wearing those oh-so classic skinny jeans, but don’t forget the moss patent leather Gucci clutch in hand that retails for only $1,050. So what should one do when they crave the hottest fall trends straight from the fashion houses of Paris, the same looks they can not afford?

It’s quite easy, as consumers only have three options: find a realistic knockoff, go to a mass-market retailer that has teamed up with a world-renowned designer for low-cost looks (i.e. Vera Wang for Kohl’s), or refuse to pay rent for a few months all so you can rock the newest $945 Manolo Blahnik “Something Blue” satin pumps. Regardless of which option you choose, the current craze for haute couture has turned into a public relations nightmare for practitioners in the fashion world and it does not seem as if they will be waking up from this bad dream anytime soon.

As many shoppers crave clothes and accessories that are only in the price range of the wealthy and elite, they are finding alternatives that look the same, but are in no way made of authentic Italian leather or actual crocodile like the creations of top designers. Enter the counterfeiting industry. No one knows for sure, but the World Customs Organization estimates that the trade in counterfeit goods is valued at over $500 billion. Knockoffs resembling the creations from European fashion houses, such as those in Milan, are constantly in demand, and although Italy only contributes to 1.4 percent of the counterfeiting industry, the Italian Institute Against Counterfeit Goods estimates that Italy has lost more than 40,000 jobs in the past decade because of lost sales attributed to replica goods.

So aside from writing news releases and planning fashion week, public relations practitioners are now left with the daunting task of trying to fight crime and defend brand image for designer clients, as well.

Because many people are unaware of the disturbing effects associated with the counterfeiting industry, Harper’s Bazaar, the world renowned fashion magazine, has developed a public relations campaign to create awareness about the illegal activities associated with imitation designer goods by establishing the Harper’s Bazaar Anticounterfeiting Alliance. Its “Fakes Are Never in Fashion” campaign educates shoppers on the negative aspects associated with counterfeiting industry and teaches buyers how to determine fakes versus authentic luxury goods.

The French holding company Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate, has also stepped up to combat counterfeiters head-on. As stated on the LVMH web site, the counterfeiting industry “unlawfully takes advantage of the prestige of its (luxury) brands and harms their tradition, identity and image.” In June, LVMH took legal action against eBay, a web site known for selling replica goods, resulting in a Paris court order requiring eBay to pay approximately $26 million in damages to Louis Vuitton and $30 million to Christian Dior.

This may be considered only a small victory for LVMH, as Louis Vuitton spends millions of dollars annually on a zero tolerance policy against counterfeiting. In 2004 alone, Louis Vuitton’s actions resulted in 947 arrests, more than 6,000 raids, over 13,000 legal actions, and the seizure of many fake printing cylinders.

Not only has this been an ongoing PR fiasco for LVMH, this ruling put eBay’s PR department into over-drive, too. According to Nichola Sharpe, the US spokesperson at eBay, she said the company developed a global crisis communication plan months in advance and worked with global PR teams to prepare for the ruling.

In the fashion war to combat counterfeiting, one might consider buying low-cost goods created by top designers at mass retail chains a solution. Think again. It may appear to be the perfect world, one where shoppers can have access to the affordable designs of Karl Lagerfeld and Isaac Mizrahi at places such as H&M and Target. Wrong. While many are praising top designers’ inexpensive creations, many of the “fashion elite” consider this a fashion faux pas.

“I think when the designers continue to have collections at the lower-priced line, it can be a detriment,” Heather White of W magazine said. “Honestly, Isaac Mizrahi…would you pay $10,000 for a couture multicolored knit sweater? Not after you associate him with producing clothes at Target.”

White is a prime example of those who believe that the overexposure of designers’ creations at mass retail chains could tarnish a luxurious brand’s image and identity. Why would one want to spend over $2,800 for a Stella McCartney dress at Nieman Marcus when people actually have the option of purchasing her clothes at (gasp!) H&M?! The nightmare continues.

So if fighting the counterfeiting industry is almost comparable to declaring war on a small country, and if large retail chains can tarnish a name and image, what is the solution? Perhaps the solution lies in educating the world about the counterfeiting industry. Maybe people would reconsider visiting Canal Street in Manhattan for a knockoff handbag if they knew that these same counterfeiting rackets also deal with narcotics, weapons and child prostitution. I bet my boyfriend’s mom would have taken that into consideration before she bought me the little replica Chanel diamond earrings as a stocking stuffer this past Christmas. Sadly, no one ever mentioned to her that the sale of counterfeit goods has also helped support a Shiite terrorist group. I know I took that into consideration as I was chased down the alleyways of Venice this summer, refusing to let vendors sell me poorly made “Prada” bags.

So instead of investing millions of dollars into combating counterfeiters directly, perhaps PR practitioners should focus their campaigns upon educating their prime target audience: shoppers. Instead of spending time debating whether or not Mossimo Giannulli ruined his career by designing for Target, people should be spreading the world about the negative aspects associated with counterfeiting. The reality is this: everyone knows that knockoffs exist, but many people don’t know the disturbing details associated with the industry.

For the time being, we can only hope that more PR practices begin anti-counterfeiting educational campaigns like that of Harper’s Bazaar and in the meantime, I will personally enjoy wearing my Isaac Mizrahi dress from the Target collection and only wishing that I had $495 for the Giuseppe Zanotti leopard-print ballerina flats to match. I’ll keep wishing and watching as this fashion PR nightmare continues to unfold.

Other Sources:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Multicultural PR

Over the past few years, U.S. demographics have been constantly changing. Slowly, the minority is now becoming the majority. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in ten U.S. counties has more than 50 percent minority residents. With the change in demographics, PR professionals must realize that the generalized campaign message will no longer work. In order for your message to be truly effective, you must take a cultural approach and tailor your message for your target demographic using the concept of multicultural PR.

Since the U.S. population is so diverse, one generalized campaign could exclude groups because the campaign may not be consistent with the values or lifestyle of that group. Furthermore, a generalized campaign may not come across the same way for one demographic or culture as it would for another. In essence, your message could become lost in translation, completely missing people groups that could be important to your campaign.

Some companies are beginning to realize the importance of multicultural PR and understanding the changing demographics. Kimberly-Clark recently launched a campaign taking the cultural-targeting approach. Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies and Pull-Ups “Tren de Vida” (Train of Life) campaign aims at connecting with Hispanic mothers. Efforts include face-to-face meeting at events like the Mexican Independence Day Festival, radio broadcasts and the recent launch of According to Sergio López-Miró, president of Hispanic PR, the campaign is built on the cultural experience of many Latina mothers relying on extended networks of aunt, sisters and grandmothers to help raise their children.

There’s an article entitled “PR Technique: Multicultural campaigns: the sum of the parts” by Anita Chabria that offers some great tips about multicultural PR campaigns. It is a few years old, but still very relevant today.

Here are Chabrai’s tips:
  • “Do in-depth research on the target demographic to understand cultural nuances and preferences that could impact the message.” 
  • “Do reach out to smaller publications and institutions with clout in the community, such as neighborhood papers and churches.” 
  • “Do consider using a visual theme to tie together a campaign for various minority or ethnic groups.” 
  • “Don’t assume an outsider can understand the culture. Take the time to speak with members of the group you are targeting.” 
  • “Don’t limit your placements. Especially in the youth market, kids often cross demographic lines in areas such as music and pop culture.” 
  • “Don’t underestimate the power of language – reaching out in the target group’s native tongue is critical.”
As our country continues to grow, it is vital that PR professionals think beyond the general population, and develop more culturally and lifestyle-driven campaigns.

By Brandi

Monday, October 6, 2008

PR in the New Economy

In today’s world it’s getting harder to make ends meet. The economy is on everyone’s mind during this time of banking crises, foreclosures, high gas prices and the ever-declining value of the dollar. In this new economy, people are forced to prioritize and focus on the essentials. Corporations have to cut back to stay competitive and some would think that public relations would be one of the first to get the knife. But public relations is not a luxury in a corporation; in fact, there are many reasons why public relations is a necessity in the new economy.

Research: Public relations is vital to a company’s research. PR professionals help the company keep up with the pace of world trends. For instance, if the world becomes more involved with the green movement, the public relations department should report this to the business so they can be more alert to global trends.

Image: The public relations department is also focused on conducting research based upon the company’s image. Seeing how others view the company plays a key role in the mission and direction in which the company goes. Ultimately, it is public opinion that allows a firm to sink or swim, so businesses need every bit of help they can get on developing and maintaining a positive image with their publics.

Strategy: Along with conducting research on global trends and views of the company, public relations develops strategies. A communication plan makes a company think in the long-run. Having one-year, five-year and 10-year plans allows the overall company to project its direction, define its goals and finally achieve them. In today’s economy, having a long-range plan helps business stay on track while making changes in the present.

Crisis Management: This issue has been in the news a lot lately. As businesses have been undergoing transitions and downfalls, management has not known what or how much to say. During the recent banking crisis, some of the banks that ended up closing reported that they were doing fine until after they declared bankruptcy. Crisis management requires public relations because there is one person disseminating information, who knows how much to say, and gives a consistent message of what is actually happening.

Public relations is needed just as much today as it was in the old economy. As we progress into a new economy, we must not forget how necessary public relations is in forming our futures.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Google Numbers: Ethical?

Google Numbers

According to the Oct. 6 BusinessWeek (Google Numbers), you will soon know exactly how influential you are through Facebook. Patent pending software produced by Google would rank your Facebook profile through criteria such as how many friends you have, how many friends they have and how often your friends read a news story or view a video clip that you posted. Since Google would be tracking users more closely it would allow them to be able to better serve their advertisers. They would know exactly how influential a person was and what the interests of that person or their friends were, allowing them to target advertising more directly. Google declined to comment to BusinessWeek.

Public Domain

Is your Facebook profile public domain? Would it be ethical for Google to use your interests, activites or group memberships to tailor advertising?
Some would argue that privacy does not exist on the Internet, while others would say that you should be given a reasonable amount of privacy when sharing information with your family and friends on Facebook.

Facebook’s privacy policy has this to say about third-party advertisers, “Unlike most sites on the Web, Facebook limits access to site information by third party search engine 'crawlers' (e.g. Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask). Facebook takes action to block access by these engines to personal information beyond your name, profile picture, and limited aggregated data about your profile (e.g. number of wall postings).”

But goes on to say:
“We may provide information to service providers to help us bring you the services we offer. Specifically, we may use third parties to facilitate our business, such as to host the service at a co-location facility for servers, to send out email updates about Facebook, to remove repetitive information from our user lists, to process payments for products or services, to offer an online job application process, or to provide search results or links (including sponsored links). In connection with these offerings and business operations, our service providers may have access to your personal information for use for a limited time in connection with these business activities. Where we utilize third parties for the processing of any personal information, we implement reasonable contractual and technical protections limiting the use of that information to the Facebook-specified purposes.”

And finally, “This privacy policy covers the use of cookies by Facebook and does not cover the use of cookies or other tracking technologies by any of its advertisers.”
If Facebook allows Google to implement Google numbers, then they will have to re-write their privacy policy.

Facebook has been somewhat sneaky in the past on implementing new technology. Since their creation they have not needed too much of a communication plan. People joined Facebook because they wanted to connect friends. In light of new technology and the new interface recently introduced, Facebook will need to some serious campaigning in order to keep members from deleting their Facebook accounts.

I am curious to know why Google declined to comment on the BusinessWeek article. Does Facebook know about this proposed Google Number? Is it a stunt to get everyone’s mind off of “New Facebook”?

What do you think?

Another blog about how the logarithm of “Google Number” would work:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Juicy Campus: Too Hot for Comfort

WARNING: To those interested in visiting this Web site (, be aware of the hateful speech and offensive language and material.

Look out Facebook, beware MySpace, there’s a new social media sheriff in town. Just last week, the Web site was called to my attention. Juicy Campus is a social networking Web site for university students to post their latest gossip. After scanning the site, an important question popped into my thoughts. Just how much positive networking does this Web site produce? After a deeper look into Juicy Campus, I can confidently say the answer is zero. There is no benefit to Juicy Campus. Being in the public relations field, it is our duty to be aware of the most recent trends. That being said, I have chosen to explain this Web site and why it teeters on the line of dangerous.

Juicy Campus prides itself on 100 percent anonymity for its participants. This distinct trait allows anyone to post anything without comments being censored. This type of free range posting gives people remorseless confidence. Hateful language towards ethnicities, genders, organizations and sexual orientation make up the majority of the Web site.

One way advantage
There are various catches to Juicy Campus’s set up. Catch #1 is that it favors one-sided communication. The sender of a message can post whatever he or she chooses, yet the receivers cannot delete any of these messages. This, in no way, represents an equal communicative exchange. To render total control to the message sender leaves the receiver powerless and bitter. This is the reason for the harsh comments that follow certain messages. There is a reply option below each post allowing readers to write opinions. This sparks anonymous arguments rather than constructive criticism.

People, beware what you post
After reviewing Juicy Campus, I was concerned with the issues of slander, libel and the First Amendment. For information on media law, I looked toward Dr. Matt Bunker, a professor in journalism at The University of Alabama. When asked about these issues, Bunker provided ample explanation. He says libel occurs, “If someone writes false statements about another person that harms that person’s reputation.” Now, it’s time to unveil catch # 2. A Web site, such as, is likely to avoid legal responsibility for harmful statements made on its Web site. Bunker said, “under federal law section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Web site owners are generally immune from lawsuits over statements made by their users.” The First Amendment protects free speech in order to maintain the open exchange of ideas. However, if you were to specifically name a person, the university he or she attends and a detailed description of the person, you could be held accountable. This means that if you cross the line, and someone feels defamed, it is you that he or she is coming after.

Future implications
In an era when people ages 8 to 80 are incorporating social media into their daily lives, a Web site like this could be dangerous to participants once they leave the comfort of their computer. We all remember the high school girl who was violently beaten by her peers over rumors she posted on (Read more). Juicy Campus has the potential to lead to events such as this. Message posters may not be as protected under the blanket of ambiguity as they think, and violence may occur due to hateful rumors. Our society, both on and off line, is constantly changing. Though we do not know whether is a mere fad or a steadfast addition to social media, it is up to us, as PR students, to remain informed. Now that you have my opinion, I encourage you to visit the Web site and form your own.

For additional information on Juicy Campus:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cannot Fail Spirit

My management professor presents articles at the beginning of class that are recent and pertinent to the business profession. Last week he showed us this article, featured in the Sept. 29th Fortune Magazine, about the president of Disney-ABC networks Anne Sweeney. In the article she describes the most useful advice she was ever given. She says that it did not come from anyone she knew, but instead she describes a trip to the farmer’s market during a long weekend in San Francisco. She says that she saw a piece of steel etched with a quote, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” She says that it stopped her in tracks and she goes on to offer some useful advice.

As someone who is entering the job search during this time of economic uncertainty and having just written an article about beginning the job search for this issue of Platform, it struck me as pertinent to the job search. Who would I contact if I knew I wouldn’t hear “no.” Would I call that agency I am dying to work for? Maybe.

More than that, it reminds me that the worst thing we can hear when we ask for things or approach things is “no.”

Sweeney goes on to talk about how she always wanted to paint, and after reading the quote she started painting. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not, Sweeney says, she’s just doing it. Sweeney goes on to say, “What matters is you experience it as if you could not fail. It speaks to big dreams, innovation, challenging yourself, and pushing to create what’s next.”

I believe perception is what drives us. If we ignore the perception of failure and push forward with all of our dreams, then we can not, will not fail. If our expectations are reasonable, if we can dream it, we can do it.

I like to think of public relations as one of the most innovative careers. I think that we need to use this “will not fail” approach more often.

Most PR campaigns are teeming with research to back the methods that they are suggesting. Simply making the why behind everything “because we cannot fail” is insane for practitioners and students, like myself, who want to have logical explanations for everything that we do.
I think we as people and as public relations students, educators, and practitioners need to think less about the why and how and more about the instinct and feelings behind what we do.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Passionate about PR – for those of you who are not sure about “the real world”

What is PR? Some people confuse it with advertising because of its similarities, but in actuality it has a very different purpose.

Public relations practitioners seek relationships with people, building a bridge between clients and their audience. Advertising is just one car crossing that bridge to help spread the word about a product or event.

With that said, many students (including myself) enter the PR field, not knowing what it is really about. When I was a sophomore, I remember asking different educators in the Communications College, “What is the difference in an Advertising and Public Relations degree?” The answers I got weren’t necessarily clear to me. It took a while before I started actually understanding PR.

AP style, press releases, memos, logos, surveys, evaluations, feature stories, video news releases– these are just a few things a PR student learns. While these are important aspects, it still does not give you a definition of exactly what you will be doing when you get out in “the real world.”

So there is the question: What will I be doing when I get into “the real world”? It is always a good idea to start with something you are passionate about. If you don’t find PR a very exciting profession, you can make it exciting by fitting it into your life. Don’t think about what jobs are out there. Think more along the lines of “What do I care about and how can I connect that with my PR skills?”

Exploring this question will help you define your career, instead of the career that defines you. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to search for jobs. But perhaps exploring the question will help you to know what jobs to look for and also which people to contact.

Meeting people—one of the key PR tools. Contact people involved in public relations and build relationships. You can learn a lot by just talking with others and listening to their experiences they have had in the PR field. Then, that person may give you another contact, and another and so on, until you have loads of knowledge that can gear you towards that next step.

I have found that you must be passionate about what you are doing. Since there are many students striving toward a degree in PR (e.g., 584 in UA’s 2008 undergraduate PR program), you have to find ways to be creative and different than others in your field. Start with something you are passionate about and the ideas will begin to flow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RSS Feed How To

Keeping up with current events in public relations is important to all PR students, educators and practitioners. An easy way to do this is by reading blogs on PR topics. There is certainly no shortage of blogs out there to read with everyone from firms to magazines, practitioners to students blogging about public relations. But how can you keep up with all of this information coming at you from hundreds of different sites?

The answer for many is to utilize RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. These feeds make it easy to keep up with the latest blog posts so you don’t miss the discussion, but also enable you to see all of these posts in one convenient location so you don’t have to visit each blog’s Web site. The problem with RSS feeds is many people do not know how to use them. Because of this I will take the opportunity to briefly explain how easy it is to make your quest for public relations knowledge a little bit easier.

First, you need to find some blogs that interest you. They don’t have to be public relations blogs, but as someone connected with the field, I would hope that you are looking at one or two a month at least. Once you have found these blogs that you would like to read regularly, you need to find the feed reader that best suits your needs.

One of the most popular readers is now available from Google. In order to use this reader, you must have a Google email account (Gmail). The link to Google’s reader is available on the upper right hand side of your screen once you log into your email (which I have put in a red box in the screen shot). Yahoo also offers a feed reader through their My Yahoo! feature. Other sites offer free readers such as Omea Reader and RssReader. If you choose to utilize these readers, you will see the blog posts in their entirety, including pictures. You can even customize the look of your reader through these services, changing how you view the newest posts, among other things.

Another option you have is to utilize the “Live Bookmarks” or “Feeds” feature available on browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (the Firefox feature is shown at right). This option allows you to view the title of each new post in your bookmarks sidebar. Once you click on the title, it takes you to the Web site so you can view the post you want to see.

Now that you have picked some blogs to subscribe to and have chosen your reader, it is time to learn how to subscribe. This is probably the easiest part of the process because it requires only a few clicks of the mouse. Though the process looks a little different on each browser, the logistics are the same. On the blog’s Web site, look for a link that says something to the effect of, “subscribe to this blog’s feed.” This is usually accompanied by an orange box with three white lines originating in the left hand corner, smallest to largest (like this: ).

Once you click on that box you will either be immediately prompted to add this blog to a reader or you will have to click again on another link saying, again, “subscribe to this blog’s feed.” You can now choose which feed reader to use. From the drop-down menu, select the reader that you would like to use and click subscribe. It’s that easy! You can even repeat the process to subscribe to the blog using several of your readers if you want to experiment with a couple before choosing the right one for you.

You’re all set now so happy reading!

Martha G.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bookmark This

E-mails, calendar announcements, blog posts, electronic notifications… day by day, hour by hour, our lives are getting more and more organized… but equally overwhelmed and inundated with massive amounts of feeds, posts, articles and quizzes. Some of it is relevant, some of it is fun and some of it is clutter. How can we make sense of all the information coming at us?

Social Bookmarks.

It’s not a perfect system (if in fact, such a creature does exist), but it does help to keep track of the what matters and what doesn’t.

Social bookmarks are the new way to share with family, friends and random strangers something you find interesting. And, you can look it up later in case you want to show it again.

Such applications usually allow you to take the URL of a page and send that to friends, while bookmarking on your home browser, computer or social network for future reference.

The most common of these are: Digg, Facebook, and RSS feeds.

It’s simple and to the point – unlike everything else.

So how can you start bookmarking, and when is it appropriate?

—First, sign up for one or more of the following sites:





-Countless others

—Once registered, most of these have the ability to take the URL of a page and copy and paste it into the share/posted items/bookmark section, such as with Facebook. Here, you post the link and a short description of what you find interesting about that site. On social networking sites, these links show up on your profile page and on some friends’ activity feeds.

—Other sites, such as Digg, work a little differently. In these cases, on the page you are interested in, there is usually a “Digg this” button that allows you to link this page to your Digg account, post a small summary and then submit. Sites such as these attract browsers who are interested in seeing what others find interesting, and the more popular the link becomes, the more attention it gets on the front pages of such sites.

—Now you have shared your link with the rest of the world, and voila – you also have that link permanently stored on your account for use later.

—Social networking does not have many rules, but the most important one is to not overdo it – users following your links (some have no choice, especially on social networking sites) will quickly get annoyed with an onslaught of links and either remove you as a friend, send you constant messages, or ignore the links, driving down the popularity.

For personal use, social bookmarking makes sharing cool facts, figures, pictures and video easy and user-friendly. For the field of Public Relations, it is a miracle – the ability of users to find something of interest on your company’s site or extensions of the site, and share it with friends. In this way, more users are drawn to your site and/or get the general idea of your site from the brief snippet provided by the shared link, and your company gets brand recognition.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Brand You

You would be surprised at how little there is on the Internet on the topic of getting a job in PR. Since getting a job is pretty high on the list of priorities for all PR students, I assumed I would be able to find a lot more information — maybe even a checklist — on how to go about this process. I finally found a blog in which the author outlines several great tips on the PR-job search:

His third point caught my eye, and I was thrilled as I was able to answer all the questions about personal goals and what differentiates me from other applicants.

It seems that there is more pressure than ever for students and professionals to differentiate themselves from their peers. Everyone applying for a PR job will have a college degree, so who you are and what you’ve done makes you special. What makes you more qualified than the next PR major for (fill in your dream job)? How can (insert your dream employer) help you achieve your lifelong goals? What is the best use for your time now?

Gear up, friends, it’s time to put all those PR skills to work building the brand You.

I spent this summer doing just that. Specifically, I spent the summer in Russia, striking up conversation with anyone who would talk – Russian waitresses, American consular officers, German millionaires, Azerbaijani restaurant owners… I really mean anyone who would talk – and reading the great literature of many cultures.

Here is a little of what I learned about creating brand You from my experiences this summer:

Go Places
Russia is a little out there, I understand, so pick a place that interests you enough to make you seek out the lessons it has to offer. With a global worldview, you as a PR major will be much more competent when it comes to dealing with foreign media, partners and even employers.

This summer I went to a mass grave where over 400,000 unknown citizens of St. Petersburg killed by Nazi forces were buried during the Siege of Leningrad, and it made me understand Russian strength and pride. I saw how people lived, and I understood how hard it will be for Russia to become a truly capitalist nation.

Don’t sit in your room. You never know if that 2,000th picture is the one you will need for a blog post in the fall.

Eat everything. Anywhere you go, food teaches lessons about culture and the economy.

Forget your preconceived ideas. What you see in the media is not always true, and foreign opinions often go unrepresented.

Meet People
This summer, a German in a coffee shop inspired me to work harder on my Russian vocabulary, an Armenian waiter showed me how to bridge the gap between foreign cultures, and a former member of the KGB taught me to understand the intricacies of the relationship between government and economics. Relationships open the world to you, and PR students and practitioners especially understand the value of these connections.

Coffee houses are a great way to meet people. If people are sitting in a coffee house, they have time to kill and probably don’t mind talking. My German friend was ready to pounce on anyone who would practice English with him (in Russia. Go figure).

Speak the native language; people appreciate it. As invaluable as a second language is anywhere, an added advantage is that people are nicer when they understand you.

Listen to what everyone has to say; eavesdrop, if you have to. The pulse of a country is hidden in what its citizens are talking about, whether you are in the United States or the United Arab Emirates.

Read Books
I know as students it is hard enough to find time to read a syllabus, much less a novel or political commentary, but there is something about the written word (all of your PR professors are smiling and nodding right now) that has the power to change perceptions and sometimes even people.

Pick books on topics you like, otherwise you won’t make the time to read them.

Pick books that will stretch you to think differently and understand more fully. If you want something to change you, it doesn’t make any sense to have it align perfectly with what you already think.

So embrace your crazy obsessions. Let yours take you mountain biking through the Rockies this summer or to a wildlife reservation in Canada over Spring Break. These experiences will shape who you are and where you will fit at your future job.

As PR students, we should know that a media release – no matter how colorfully written – will never be noticed if the product is the same as any other. Be you and, in doing so, you will build brand You: a passionate and competent PR job applicant.

Jessica A.