Every End Brings a New Beginning

•June 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

T-minus one week until I splash into summer. One spanish presentation, an eportfolio and an eight a.m. geography test is all that separates me from rays of sun and days of fun. With the close of my junior comes the conclusion of J452, and with every end comes a new beginning.

This class has been more than influential in my growth as a public relations professional. This blog would not have been brouaght about without this class, and I apologize for your heart skipping a beat with that hard-to-swallow fact. Prior to this course I did not really know what a blog was, thought a podcast was something in Halo, and could not imagince Facebook as valuable social networking tool. This class has unveiled the resources all around us, as PR professionals. It has illustrated the core of PR: communication.

This course showed me how to communicate to various audiences with a variety of vehicles. So many aspects I know will prove themselves valuable in my years to come. My whole philosphy with studying public relations is that if I learn to communicate clearly, effectively and accurately to any audience, I can do anything. With this world growing and expanding on almost every imaginable front, communication, I beleive, will be the single most influential factor for success.

With the conclusion of this class, I will continue my studies in the U of O school of journalism and communication. However, classes will not be had in manners previous to this course. Imagine a black and white picture, sweet? Yeah kind of… Now imagine that same picture vibrantly illustrated with every arm of the color wheel. A perfect example of my view of the public relations industry after this class. Thank you to all my classmates and my extraordinary professor, Tiffany Derville, Ph.d, for making this class enjoyable, educational and valuable. Ciao.

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You Think You’re Credible?

•May 22, 2008 • 1 Comment

As I sat in my geography class this morning, I witnessed my professor attempt to be bigger than a geography teacher. We were discussing climate changes and the evidence of such happenings. She began to question us asking, “But, how do you know?” This was a tactic used to get us to attempt to pay attention to our surroundings and data we researched, but really it was about not taking information spoon fed.

When I got home I read chapter 4 of Made to Stick and was ironically struck with the same questions regarding credibility. My professor discussed how scientists, newspapers and other sources of authority are taken as credible because they are seemingly established. However, with issues regarding climate change and global warming, not all the information offered may be as credible as the sources of which it comes.

Chapter 4 discussed Pam Laffin’s battle with the affects of a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. She developed emphysema at age 24 and became a public figure leading the battle against smoking. The chapter suggested that she was a more credible source of information for the affect of smoking than a scientist at a tobacco research institute because she is a first hand user and victim. I made the correlation with the ideas of my geography class in that someone who can see the affects of climate change or global warming may be more credible than Al Gore, regardless of a movie.

Additionally, she offered that the blogging world (woop woop) is playing a major role in disproving information that would be otherwise taken as credible. I can see examples of this in mainly politics and issues of global warming.

After my professors lecture, chapter 4 and various other learning’s I’ve picked up, it is becoming clear to me that the criteria for credibility is shifting. I credit the change mainly to the emergence internet as one of the strongest powers in regards to influence and access of information. With the cyber revolution comes a power to the people, down with authority aspect of individual information gathering. Now that people are coming up with their own ideas based off of information and research they gather, credibility is in the eye of the beholder.

Pouring Concrete

•May 20, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Chapter 3 of Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, focused on what I believe to be the very core essence of public relations work: being concrete. The chapter discussed various case studies and success stories illustrating ideas of abstraction vs. concreteness and the variety of issues the combination may produce. What I gathered from the reading was that as public relations professionals, or human beings for that matter, using concrete terms and ideas is the hands down best way to practice effective communication.

When the chapter discussed the dangerous differences between two parties communicating on different levels (concrete vs. abstract) I thought the message was made most clear with the following passage found on page 114:

“Novices perceive concrete details as concrete details. Experts perceive concrete details as symbols of patterns and insights that they have learned through years of experience. And, because they are capable of seeing a higher level of insight, they naturally want to talk on a higher level. They want to talk about chess strategies, not about bishops moving diagonally.”

This passage, I believe, illustrates the worlds need for public relations professionals. I regarded the “novices” as the consumers, shareholders or any aspect of the community that a company serves. The experts are then the employees and board members of the company. Those who work in the company obviously understand a great deal more about its systems, strategies and ideas than those who do not. Because the consumers do not work for the company, their understanding of messages and strategies may be hazy at times. Therefore, the need for a “middle man” is created and gives jobs to people like us.

As public relations professionals, it is our job to take the message of our client or organization and paraphrase it in concrete terms so that our publics can more effectively convey the message.

An example I’ve seen of practicing to be concrete is our wonderful writing quizzes in my J452 Advanced PR Writing class and the edits on our assignments. Our professor, Tiffany Derville, Ph.D., consistently instructs us to cut out filler words or unnecessary globs of information. After reading this chapter, the reasons for doing so is vibrantly illustrated: More words = less concrete.

It is important for us as budding PR professionals to understand this idea and exercise it diligently. Let our personalities and qualities provide the color to our work, but keep the messages concrete and they will be embraced.

Not only Athletes Jumping Hurdles in 2008 Olympics

•May 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing will promise to showcase the top level of human sport as they do every four years. However, these summer games also promise to be comprised of controversy and protest. Human rights activists have been attacking Chinas hosting of the games for human rights policies and actions in Darfur and Tibet. Campaigns protesting the summer games have already claimed disrupting the historic and symbolic global trot of the Olympic torch, a very disheartening incident for the games prestige. So what does this mean for the Olympic sponsors? With the events literally being televised all over the world, it is a slam dunk for the games’ big sponsors and advertisers, or is it a rim check?

A short CNN story I found on You Tube discusses the growing concerns for the 2008 Olympic sponsors. As the games approach, more campaigns are executed by activists highlighting disregard for genocide and human rights violations in Darfur and Tibet. This cannot be good PR to associate your company with supporting the games – which is also to show disregard to the activists, Right?

The story discusses some of the game’s big name sponsors — McDonalds, Samsung and Coca-Cola – feeling pressure from their role as sponsors. Although the Olympic Council has not had any of its sponsor’s withdrawal, they fear the pressure to succumb to customers protest will carry weight in doing so.

The controversy surrounding the games, and specifically Chinas role in Darfur, has already caused acclaimed director Steven Spielberg to resign as artistic designer for the games. Additionally, Musician Quincy Jones, who was asked to compose the Olympic song, has reported that he is now reconsidering his contribution. And even more, Britain’s Prince Charles has made clear that he will not attend the games because of human rights abuses in Tibet.

The contribution abandonment has proven to not only be from countries outside China. The story interviews Ai Weiwei, an architect of the stadium in Beijing where the games will be held. He illustrates his frustration with the Chinese government for not living up to promises of greater freedom, and wants no part in the games.

The architect of the stadium hosting the OLYMPICS does not want to see his work immortalized? Truly, these Olympics are unlike those of the past.

So what kind of pressure does this put on the game’s sponsors? With all of these prominent figures rejecting their request for inclusion in the Olympics, what does that say about the companies that do not? Could sponsoring these Olympics be considered bad public relations?

The Dark Hours of PR

•May 19, 2008 • 1 Comment

As I leisurely strolled home from the gym this afternoon, the long awaited spring sun some how invited me to think about PR in my life outside of my studies. I thought back to what I would call my first experience doing public relations work. Unfortunately, it was not an enjoyable experience.

During the fall of my senior year at Eastside Catholic High School all of my time was devoted to football and anything close to it. I was a starter on the team and a prominent leader in the ranks. After one of my best performances in a win against a cross state rival, my celebrations were short lived when I heard the news of the tragic death of one of my teammates. Brian Hill was a sophomore on the team, a very nice, goofy hard-working kid and the son of one of my mother’s dear friends. He and friend who went to Newport High School (the public school in my area) were both killed when Brian’s lost control and hit a tree while on a joy-ride before the game that night. My friend John Sirlin and I took it upon ourselves to step up and lead the memorial services and gather the community. It was a big story in Seattle, because of the multitude of people it affected. I was ASB representative at the time and this is the first time I can remember doing what you could call public relations work.

Constantly in the weeks following the tragedy I was asked to give statements to reporters, speak at vigils and services and give interviews to local news stations, all the while representing my school and the student body community. As painful as this was to do, I do feel it was a key factor in the development of my passion and understanding of public relations. The hardest part was the attention. I did not want to be that guy in the spotlight speaking for many, and at times it was frustrating and too emotional. However, I realize now that public relations is not always easy. In fact, it may be one of the most trying professions at time.

It makes me wonder what kind of stress comes with the profession? If you are a practitioner and a tragic incident comes around, how can you always make sure that you are displaying yourself and those you represent with out displaying too much emotion or frustration? R.I.P Brian Hill #72.

Barack Obama at the U of O

•May 12, 2008 • 3 Comments

As the last of the spring sunlight sat on top of the trees above the quad, Presidential Candidate Barack Obama adressed students, faculty and community members at the U of O last Thursday evening. He discussed the usual topics: the economy, the war in Iraq, education and so on. I was very impressed with Senator Obama. While I am still an undecided voter, I very much admired his character and speaking skills. At one point in his speech he referenced the public relations industry very subtly and briefly. Perhaps I am over analyzing, but it struck me as odd and obviously I cannot shake it, which is why it is the topic of this weeks blog. Sen. Obama was discussing the Republican party leaders and when referring to the delivering of information to the American people he criticized it by saying, “the people want truth, not PR.” Obviously, the public relations industry was referred to with a negative connotation this way. I understand what he meant; that the people do not want their information twisted, downplayed, over-exagerated or spun. What is Sen. Obama saying about the public relations industry in regards to the truth? That PR is not the truth? Is he referring only to political public relations? Or is this an issue that must be addressed by the entire industry? Does — at times– public relations have bad public relations?

Shareholder Letters

•May 6, 2008 • 2 Comments

In class we focused on Shareholder Letters. We had a very small class because many of the students are up in Portland for a communicators conference, so we had a good small group for discussion. We reviewed various shareholder letters from Smuckers, Disney and Chiquita, and they were all very different from one another. I liked all of them, yet Disney’s struck me as a little odd. First off, it was very lengthy. Almost to the point where it was overwhelming, littered with jargon and fuzzy phrases of inspiration and personal relationships. It was, in fact, exactly what you would envision when you think of Disney. I am unsure on how I feel about the consistency of Disney’s style, meaning that there is very little difference between Cinderella and their corporate philosophy documents. I think it is good to be consistent with your ideals and philosophy, yet I also feel there should be a stronger sense of formality in their annual report and letter to shareholders. What really ground my gears was the part in the letter where the alleged author, president and CEO Robert Iger states “And as I write this letter,” and then continues to discuss the the success of the company. Most likely Mr. Iger is NOT writing this letter, I would bet $10 he did not. I understand the Disney image and who it is really trying to reach, but I think there needs to be a little more professionalism in such documents. Yeah? Yeah? I thought so.