The beauty of thinking…

November 19, 2009

Tonight’s post has nothing to do with public relations. Tonight’s post is about questions.

I just finished watching Schlinder’s List. My heritage is mostly German. However, this movie made me think, more than any other movie has.

The Holocaust is something we all learn about in school, and we are taught and we absorb different amounts. So why, after graduating from high school and earning my B.A., does it take a movie to make me ask questions?

Whether you believe that we were all created as equals by God or not, what makes it right for certain people to treat others in the most horrific of ways? What makes someone think that they are entitled to a better life? What gives one person the right to take another’s life?

How can one person influence thousands of others to abuse, beat, and ultimately take the lives of millions of others? And, if we truly are a “more educated” society, then why do we allow this? Why was Hitler’s genocide so effective?

What concerns me more is that this is still going on, all over the world, and still, we don’t do anything.

In my opinion, we are all equal, and not because God made us that way. We are equal because we are all human beings; we co-exist on a planet where we depend on each other. Where I work, others come to buy their groceries, and they rely on my co-workers and I to have the groceries in stock. My co-workers and I rely on each other to determine the needs of the department. It goes further up and down.

You may not even realize that you depend on so many people you don’t know. Would your opinion of those people change based on the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, and their sexuality? And if you do think less of someone because of those, or any other factor, what gives you the right to judge? How does any of it affect you?

So I invite you all to think. Take a few minutes out of your day and really evaluate your opinions. If you can justify them that is great, that is the point of thinking through your opinions. I encourage you to take it one step further and talk about your opinions with those around you. If you do this, I suggest that you do so with an open mind. Open minds lead to open conversation, and someone else may have something to say that you never would have thought about. Open your mind to the possibilities.


Graduating into a Recession: The hopes, fears – and job prospects – of PR students

The graduation season of 2009 has begun. But what kind of job market are students graduating into? The United States has been in an economic downturn since March of 2008, and many graduating seniors are facing tough times. It is becoming obvious that a college degree does not guarantee a career, which can be a scary thought after investing $40,000 or more into a formalized education.

In the latest issue of PRSA Tactics, it was reported that a recent study proved that employers are excepting to hire 22 percent fewer college graduates than in 2008. What are the graduates of 2009 going to do? Some soon-to-be graduates are continuing (or starting) unpaid internships, hoping that the service will pay off. Other students are reporting that they are continuing their education until they can find a job. Still other students are considering relocating in order to make themselves desirable job candidates.

Tactics reports that in these times, students must make themselves marketable by being skilled in anything and everything imaginable and applicable. The article suggests that students re-evaluate their attitudes and mindsets because the tiniest thing will make the difference between having a job and starting a career.

This is a time where students (theoretically) become financially independent, branch into a non-academically structured world and learn the lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom. When I was a freshman in college, in September 2004, I remember hearing a frightening statistic: 65 percent of college graduates move home to live with their parents. That figure has stayed with me throughout my academic career, and the idea of moving home was so scary that at the beginning of my senior year I eliminated it from my list of post-graduation options.

Although Tactics is designed for public relations professionals, the tips and advice can be beneficial to any student gradating this spring or next year. And when we exit from the recession these bits of advice will remain crucial to new and prospective practitioners alike.,

Your Digital Life

May 18, 2009

If you have ever wondered “what is social media?” or “why do I need a Linked In, Facebook or Twitter account?” attending the conference, Your Digital Life is a must. On May 27 at 4 p.m., in Lillis 182 (University of Oregon), Your Digital Life will address the risks, opportunities, and practical applications of social media.

In a world that is rapidly developing and using technology that seems to change every five minutes, it is important to understand the network sites that are driving those changes. Professional networks are created online and international conferences provide live “tweets”.

Maybe you are hesitant about using social media and want to know how to protect your online identity. If you just want to understand more Your Digital Life will explain.

Your Digital Life is supported by the University of Oregon (UO) School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) and sponsored by Conkling, Fiskum and McCormick.

Your Digital Life will feature keynote speaker, Lauren Gelman. Gelman is the former Electronic Frontier Foundation Public Policy Director and current Executive Director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.

Your Digital Life is a question and answer panel. Confirmed panelists include:
John Weiss, Director of Experience Design, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
-Hannah Smith, Associate, Conkling, Fiskum and McCormick
-Andre Chinn, Instructional Technology Coordinator, SOJC
-Visiting Professor Ryan Vacca, UO School of Law
-Assistant Professor Tiffany Derville Gallicano, SOJC
-Crystal Lyon, Senior Administrative Assistant, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
-Assistant Professor Joanna Goode, UO College of Education
-Serena Markstrom, Entertainment Reporter, The Register-Guard

Your Digital Life is supported by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and sponsored by Conkling, Fiskum and McCormick.

For more information, please contact

A public relations practitioner’s job is constantly evolving. Two clients will never be the same; they will not need the same publicity; they will not need the same events; in essence, each client will present an entirely new endeavor for the practitioner. What PR practitioners are seeing these days is a shift in the way PR is done. New media outlets combined with a shift in what audiences want has affected how PR practitioners do their jobs.

Amanda Moke, graduate of the University of Oregon (UO) School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) and account coordinator of Ant Hill Marketing, states: “It is essential to know how to use social media effectively for your client.”

Pat Curtin, Ph.D., and public relations professor at UO SOJC, states that especially for crisis communications, social media is changing timeline expectations. “It used to be that if, in an hour, a statement was issued in relation to a crisis that was good. Now a statement must be issued within minutes,” says Curtin.

Kelli Matthews, public relations professor at UO SOJC states that social media has changed public relations from a “push” mechanism to a “pull” mechanism. What this means is our audiences are telling us what they want rather than being told what is available.

Tiffany Derville, Ph.D., and professor at UO SOJC says that social media is too important of a communication [device] for practitioners to ignore. “Social media provides a way to become involved in the conversations among the audiences,” Derville says.

What Matthews, Moke, Curtin and Derville all agree on is that this shift in public relations is demanding that practitioners be transparent. Because it is so easy for information to be sought, it is more important that the PR practitioner presents the information in a logical, truthful and transparent manner to the audiences.

A practitioner’s job no longer solely consists of writing press releases, planning special events, doing publicity and promotions, and handling media relations. Today practitioners may be in charge of these and a myriad of other tasks facilitated by social media. PR has never been an 8 to 5 job. It, by nature, is not a typical office job. Because of the nature of social media it becomes even more of a non-traditional career. In a job that requires expertise in too many skills to list it is vital for PR practitioners to follow new trends and how to use them to the benefit of themselves, their employers and their clients.

Related links:

PRSA Tactics Articles

On May 5, 2009, a “suspicious package” was found in a restroom of Lawrence Hall on the University of Oregon Campus. Students were notified via e-mail. Later when the “suspicious package was determined to be a left-behind backpack student received a second “all clear” e-mail.
On May 6, 2009, a man walked into the café at Broad Street Books and fired several deadly shots at a Wesleyan University student who was later identified as the gunman’s ex-girlfriend. Students on campus were notified of the incident through text messages, e-mails, and voice messages. The gunman is still at large.
In both of these incidents the individual university had a crisis communication plan that involved informing students of emergencies as soon as possible.
But how much information is too much? In the UO case, the incident was a false alarm, and all of the law enforcement and homeland security officials only caused rumors, confusion and chaos. In the Wesleyan University instance students were given vague information about a situation in few facts were concrete. Is it necessary to worry students when the situation is under control?
It has only been in the 2008-09 academic year the UO implemented a text message notification system. As a student at UO, I am voluntarily enrolled in the system and I have only ever experienced the use of system once, and that was a trial run to ensure that the notification system worked.
How can a balance be found between telling students (or claimants) involved or affected by a crisis just enough information so they are aware but not telling so much information that students (or claimants) are afraid or panicked?
The UO accomplished this by informing students of a situation after the situation was under control and followed up with a second notification that the situation had been resolved.
In the Wesleyan University example the story became national news before the victim’s family had been notified. If I were a parent whose child attended that private university I would be in complete panic until I knew my child was safe.
So, the UO gave the students enough information to be aware of a situation while Wesleyan University kept student out of the loop until news spread by other means, and then released information.
In a crisis it is important to stay calm, start to control the situation (or take the steps necessary to get the situation under control), get the facts out to the most important claimants first, and all the while maintain clear and consistent communication on all fronts. Never make a crisis larger than it is, but never underplay a crisis either.

Everyone has seen the economy change in the recent months. For most of us our spending habits have changed. There might not be as many nights out as there once were; generic over name brand products might be purchased; vacations or weekend getaways are probably canceled. For some of us our employers have taken a hit, which in turn affects our income. With less revenue there are fewer hours. With fewer hours there is less disposable income.

But what happens when this focus shifts from our personal lives to the professional lives?

In an article that appeared in the New York Times on May 3, 2009, the idea of the Public Relations industry being affected by the recession was brought to the table.

The article stated that Omnicom dropped 10.5 percent in revenue in the first quarter of 2009.

What is making the impact? Each and every expenditure is being carefully considered. Companies that can do their own PR are. Companies that can still afford PR are cutting back. And while the PR industry is not taking as much of a hit as the Advertising industry, it is feeling the blow.

According to the NYT article, employment in the PR industry grew by 25 percent in the last decade. New PR practitioners are going to have to prove their skills and learn everything they can just to stay ahead of the game. Experienced PR practitioners are going to have to learn new skills so not to fall behind.

We are in an era of technological change and economic shift, neither of which combines for a entirely positive outlook for accessory industries.

Flock for life

April 29, 2009

img_1091I first hear about Flock, a new Internet browser, in March 2009 at the Eugene PRSA monthly luncheon. Guest speaker Caroline Cummings was talking about the influence of social media on the Public Relations industry.

I had to learn what made Flock so interesting. I downloaded the browser and was instantly addicted. On the left side of my screen is a small column that allows me to switch between my different social network and media sites. At the same time the majority of my screen is the same as any other Internet browser. What this meant to me was that I could continually follow my Facebook or Twitter accounts, while still researching article for class or working on an online assignment.

This is a change, not only for the average person, but especially for professionals. In an industry like Public Relations that is constantly changing, mere seconds matter when it comes to keeping informed. We have to be the first to know about anything that happens to, or about, our clients; we have to know what is going to be said before it is spoken. More importantly, we have to know how to react in any given situation.

If I can be researching for a press release in my Internet browser, and see a tag come up through Twitter about a client, Flock makes it easy to be proactive and switch tasks into working for the second client.

Flock also allows me to keep other accounts easily accesible like WordPress, Delicious, MySpace, Yahoo, Digg, Flickr, and YouTube just to name a few.

Flock is specifically designed for those of us that use social networking on a daily basis, and use it frequently enough to need something other than bookmarks to organize our lives. Flock simplifies multitasking, and because Public Relations is becoming more and more involved with social media and social networking it is important to stay ahead of the game and use the tools that are given to us.

Flock is a result of Mozilla Firefox, and while there are similarities, it is a whole new Internet browser. To learn more check it out:

img_10881What makes you decide to buy a certain brand of car? Eat at a particular restaurant? Shop at particular store?  Chances are that these decisions are based are previous experiences, or a company’s reputation, maybe even a friend’s recommendation or your own research. But what does or does not make you a return visitor?
We have all had our own experiences with poor customer service. Maybe the cashier shorted your changes, or forgot to hand you the stamps you bought. Maybe the waitress didn’t get your order right. Maybe the car you bought had continual repairs above and beyond the expected upkeep. On the other hand, your may have had exceptional service. Your food was delicious; the car never needed anything but oil changes, tire rotations, and tune-ups; the cashier asked you if you wanted paper or plastic (or, as is becoming more commonplace, if you brought you own bags, and if so, gave you the appropriate bag credit) and offered or provided assistance to your car.
Where are these behaviors learned? A certain amount can be attributed to an employee’s personality, but some credit must be given to the company. If an individual continually has bad experiences with a company on different days, at different times, and with different employees, chances are the employees don’t like the company.
And the inverse is true. We can all tell when we get good service that is genuine. The waitress who took the extra time to bring a game for the child at the table, or made the ice cream sundae with extra whipped cream. The sales clerk who scoured through the sales rack for the right size of a piece of clothing for the customer in the dressing room. The car salesman who took the time to reassure the first-time buyer that their purchase was the right decision.
So, where is this all coming from? I spent last weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, a town that depends on tourism to survive. And while poor customer service will never put the city out of business, it can scare away local residents.
I will give you three examples. One morning, I went to breakfast with my boyfriend, Chad, and his sister, Melissa, at a restaurant that they have been going to all of their lives with their family that recently changed location and owners. I ordered a Pepsi with no ice, Chad ordered a Mountain Dew, and Melissa asked for a Dr. Pepper; which was not an option, but she was offered root beer instead. She was so confused, not thinking that one was an alternative for the other that she stuck to drinking water.
When our drinks came, mine was Diet Pepsi and had ice. When Chad finished his, a glass of iced tea was brought to him for a refill. When our food arrived, it was cold, and not at all edible. My toast was the color of coal, and the hollandaise on my eggs benedict was chunky. Finally, after eating what we could, we got our bill, which had our three individual meals and two iced teas.
Chad and Melissa called their parents, and as a family, decided not to patronize the restaurant that they had been going to for over 20 years.
Later that day, we met Chad’s younger sister, Shelby, for lunch. I ordered strawberry lemonade, which tasted like a five-pound bag of sugar that had been turned into a liquid. I asked for a glass of water with no ice and a slice of lemon. What I got was a second glass of the lemonade and a glass of ice with a chunk of lemon, and Chad’s Pepsi. This was a larger, nationwide restaurant, and in the middle of a slow Friday afternoon, we had a waiter, a waitress, and two managers visiting our table, all of which contributed to the confusion, and our overall dissatisfaction.
Finally, at a local restaurant, Chad and I went to have lunch. Yet another restaurant that he and his family had been visiting for years, which I would not go back to. The customer service was neither good nor bad, but did not stand out in my mind at exceptional, a crucial part to a restaurant’s success in a city like Las Vegas.
So, how is poor customer service related to Public Relations? Simple. It only takes one bad experience to turn away a customer for life, and one good experience to make them a customer for life. And both types of customers will talk to their friends, and the network spreads. Good customer service can be the most useful public relations tool a company has.

If ever a time for excellent customer service is beyond necessary, it is in that of an emergency. When a client is already in a frantic state of mind, there is nothing worse than poor communication from a company’s employee. Just tonight I experienced, by far, the best customer service that I have had in my 22 years of existence. While en route to Portland, Oregon, my 1994 Toyota 4-Runner broke down in the middle of Interstate 5.

It should be mentioned here that I was five mile outside of Salem, the state capital, and was heading into rush hour traffic. I pulled over to the shoulder (which was more complicated than it should have been) and immediately called the American Automobile Association (AAA). While I was on the phone arranging a tow, my friend graciously called my dad and informed him of the situation; and arranged for a coworker to come pick us up. The customer service representative was extremely helpful in not only finding a towing company, but also one that was certified by AAA, and had a repair garage under the same company. The employee learned quickly learned that I was on my way to the Portland Airport and offered to find an alternative mode of transportation for me to the airport, so that I could make my flight.

When the AAA representative was not able to immediately connect me to a representative, she arranged to have that branch call me back. Within five minutes I had received not one, but two calls assuring me that I would make it to the airport in time for my flight. In less than have the projected time, the tow truck arrived to rescue me from my disastrous situation. The driver was very professional, yet helped to lighten the mood of a stressful situation.

Within 45 minutes of me placing my initial call to AAA, I was at the garage, with my car unloaded, and prepared to be fixed the next day. In the meantime I had placed a call to Southwest Airlines, ensuring that if, for any reason, I was unable to make my originally scheduled flight, I would be able to catch the next flight out.

To my great surprise, I learned that Southwest had implemented a new feature of customer service, in which a caller no longer has to wait on hold. The customer has the option of entering a call back number, and, in the same amount of time that would be spent on hold, the customer service representative would return the call. The customer service representative was very helpful, knowing that my dilemma was out of my hands, and reassured me that I would be able to get to my destination, Las Vegas, Nevada, as soon as possible. She informed me that my flight had been delayed by 40 minutes, which would allow me the time to get to the airport and checked in with time to spare. After the tow company arrived and loaded my truck, they took my friend and I into the Salem. At the same time, my coworker was on his way to drive me us to the airport. In the end, everything worked out, and I was able to make my flight, with a few minutes to relax before boarding.

In a time where our economy is down, it is vital that expenses that could be considered necessary are carefully considered. A membership to AAA is not a must have, but after being in an emergency situation, it is something that I will always have, and the customer service that I received from AAA ensured that. It was also the support that I received from Southwest Airlines, the primary airline that I have used in the past, will be my choice of airlines. Customer relations are an important part of Public Relations; and the part that can make or break it for a company. Both AAA and Southwest Airlines demonstrated service above and beyond the expected, earning a happy and satisfied lifetime customer.

The 2009 Miss California may have overstepped her place, by voicing a very biased opinion, so will it affect how people see her. Carrie Prejean placed a very what could be perceived as a very offensive, in a very public forum. When making a bold statement, such as opposing same-sex marriage, the optimal place is not at the Miss America Pageant.

In a country that is progressing forward with same-sex marriages, can one have the opinion that  the rights to same-sex marriage is right, while also holding the opinion that, personally, marriage should be between a man and a woman. It seems controversial, does it not.

Miss Prejean was asked a straightforward question, so confusion ought not be an issue. She made the decision to say something, an opinion which she is entitled to have, in the wrong place and the wrong time. But, did it cost her the crown, and what else may it cost her?

The topic of same-sex marriage has long been controversial, and many celebrities and public figures have voiced their position. Miss Prejean was not in position to do so. While the question has been called “politically charged”, it would have been a fair question for any candidate. There are times that we all must put aside our personal beliefs, so as not to offend out audience.

Miss Prejean was the first runner up in the pageant, and it may never be known if her opinion cost her the title of Miss America, but it cannot be doubted that her remark offended some (regardless of her intent not to).

More over, Miss Prejean did not completely answer the question. She made it clear that she did not believe that all states should follow in suite with Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa, but she never gave a clear explanation of why, beyond the statement of that is how she was raised.

Her comment did change the opinion of the Miss California scholarship committee. Keith Lewis, executive director of Miss California USA/Miss Teen USA stated ” Religious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss [California] family.”

So, what happens now? Does Miss Prejean relinquish her title, does the organization rescind it? Can the pageant take the pressure that has, and will continue to come, with such a controversial candidate? And how will the Miss California scholarship fix any damage that may have been done?

A similar situation happened in 2003 when country artists, the Dixie Chicks made the following statement:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

All public figures are entitled to their opinion, but, as we have all heard from childhood, there is a proper time and place, and using a time such as a musical performance or a beauty pageant, is not the proper time or place.

I do  not sympathize with Miss Prejean. I was friends with the 2007 Miss Nevada candidate, Caleche Manos, and I know how hard she worked, and how much her platforms meant to her. I remember her rehearsing for any question that she could be asked, and coming up with a suitable answer, that met both her personal beliefs, and that which would not be offensive.

Being in a public limelight is never easy, but for Miss Prejean, she decided to do so. She should have more completely thought about her response before spouting off an answer that could cost her more than measurable.