PRSA Twitter Chat for PR Students (JOUR 4460)

On May 5, @PRSA and @PRSSANational hosted “What Your PR Classes Didn’t Teach You,” a Twitter chat between PRSA, PR pros and PR students. The chat’s special guests or “industry insiders” were Ron Culp and Amanda Lewis Hill. Hill is the director of strategic development at Lewis Public Relations in Dallas. She is both a Baylor PRSSA and University of Texas PRSSA alum.

Public Relations Society of America hosts Twitter chats throughout the school year, but this one caught my attention. The chat focused on questions that students had about being PR professionals and the real world of public relations after earning a degree. Students who joined the chat include PRSSA presidents, PRSSA members, NCPRSA members, PRSSA faculty advisors, public relations students and graduates, members of the PRSA National Board of Directors, and various PR pros.

The first question was about pitching to the media. Here are some things I learned:

  • Journalists might think PR pros get in contact with them for a hit and run (to get publicity and never call them again), but the truth is they are trying to build relationships.
  • Make sure you’re pitching to the right person, otherwise they will most likely have no interest. Research your target.
  • Observe other PR pros when they pitch. How do they do it?
  • Don’t make pointless phone calls/send pointless emails to reporters. Have a purpose.
  • Make it brief and be authentic.
  • Don’t just build digital relationships. Get out there and meet people.

Question two was about students asking for help and seeking instruction.

  • Always ask questions so you don’t fail.
  • Try to solve problems by yourself first (look to the past for answers), but always ask for help if you cannot find a solution.
  • Experienced pros like when interns/entry-level professionals ask questions.
  • Be forthcoming and confident.
  • Ask your mentors, not just your boss.
  • It’s always better to ask questions when confused then to completely fail in the end.

Question three was about participation and speaking up in meetings. Voicing my opinion in a room full of experienced professionals seems daunting. Here’s what I learned:

  • Everyone’s opinion is valuable.
  • If you are informed, aware and will add value, be bold and confident.
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • If you are always silent, it will be expected. You won’t be looked to for new ideas.

The fourth question was in regard to approaching bosses about continuing education.

  • Good mentors and bosses will encourage you to continue your education.
  • Ask them for advice.
  • Tell them about the benefits and the cost.
  • Offer compromise in some financial area, like PRSA dues.
  • Look into programs that your boss has connections to, not just programs that are pricey.
  • Explain the value it will bring to the company!

The fifth question was the most important in my opinion. It asked students about how they will show initiative and asked pros what they looked for in newbies.

From PR pros:

  • Be curious. Seek out volunteer opportunities.
  • Ask questions, show interest, do more.
  • Always do something and ask what else you can do before you leave the office.
  • Be prepared, do your homework.
  • Do extra research.
  • Look at the big picture.
  • Don’t say negative things.
  • Be humble.
  • Look for paid internships.
  • You will pay your dues.

From students:

  • Volunteer to take on more work.
  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Be a little bold.
  • Say yes to assignments, unless you’re completely swamped. Stay hungry.
  • Have passion.
  • Try something new.
  • Be kind.

I was unable to participate in the Twitter chat, but it was still extremely helpful. Every PR student or recent grad should review this chat. Thanks PRSA, PRSSA and everyone who participated for the tips, tricks, advice and insight!

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Ethics Is Not Optional (JOUR 4470)

Before taking the Ethics, Law and Diversity in Strategic Communications course at UNT I had a basic understanding of ethics. But little did I know, there are numerous concepts, details, legal aspects and previous events that define modern-day ethics and how they apply to strategic communications.

Always Use Good Ethics

The most important thing I’ve learned is professionals need to practice good ethics as best they can in every situation, especially when their decisions will affect others. Thinking twice is a great rule of thumb. Examining case studies in which CEOs or employees made horrible, unethical decisions reinforced this statement every week. Case studies about professionals who were successful always included lessons about how to correctly use ethics.

I now have a thorough understanding of ethical mega-theories (deontological ethics, teleological ethics and subjective ethics) and sub-theories (virtue ethics, cultural relativism, subjectivism, religious morality, egoism, utilitarian ethics, machiavellian ethics, situation ethics, social contract theory, communitarianism and antinomian ethics). These theories are guidelines to making good decisions. While the main theories encompass a broad range of situations, the sub-theories apply in more specific situations. In other words, they are not one-size-fit-all.

Blurred Lines

Instinctive, admirable ethics do not come naturally. Training and understanding are required. No one is born knowing what is right and wrong. Morals, beliefs and acceptable social behavior are learned. And everyone’s definition of good ethics is different, therefore there is no universal rule-book for ethical decision making. Another added difficulty includes what is considered socially acceptable changes over the years. Even five or ten years can make a difference. In the 1960s, America was shocked by this commercial:

Is it shocking now? Not compared to what we see in mainstream media on a daily basis.

So when faced with a choice that involves ethics (most choices), how are we supposed to make the right decision?

1. Apply ethical theories

2. Review codes of ethics

3. Review legal aspects

4. Look at your own morals and values

5. Decide what the greater truth is

6. Review what decisions were made in similar, past situations

7. Think about possible public reactions

Knowledge of these tools, beliefs and events are extremely helpful when a decision must be made quickly. We must remember that instinctual decisions are not always best.

If everyone had the exact same ethical behavior and way of thinking, the world would be a peaceful place. But of course this is not reality. Therefore, ethics education is vital to communicators (and people) around the world.

Taking It With Me

I believe that public relations and advertising case studies were the most important aspect of the course. As a future public relations professional, it’s extremely important to remember what decisions were successful and what decisions burned companies to the ground.
One unethical decision can have an extremely detrimental impact on integrity, credibility and reputation. Whether it is a small, daily decision or a choice that will alter the path of an entire campaign, I will take this knowledge and apply it throughout my career.

Organizational Twitter Account Versus Personal Twitter Account (JOUR 4460)

Mr. Chad Shanks, former digital communications manager of the NBA Houston Rockets, was fired after tweeting this:

He sent the tweet during the fifth game of the Houston Rockets v. Dallas Mavericks 2015 NBA playoffs series. As a MFFL (Mavs fan for life), I was a little disappointed in my team’s performance and extremely disappointed in the referees’ calls. With only a couple of minutes left to play, it was obvious the Rockets were going to win. The tweet added insult to injury and went a step too far because it implied that all of the Mavericks would soon be shot and killed. A playoff loss can definitely feel like a shot to the heart, but threatening to shoot the Mavericks, even in emoji form, could be taken as a serious threat. The Mavericks’ 2015 playoff run may be over, but their lives are not.

Every individual has the right to cheer for his or her favorite sports team and criticize the other team. But when professionals represent an organization, they can’t say whatever they want. Shanks was responsible for protecting the Rockets’ reputation and failed. Criticizing is one thing, but threatening is another. If Shanks had tweeted from his personal account, I don’t think he would have been fired. Unfortunately he didn’t think twice, like countless other professionals who have made grave mistakes on social media. Although Shanks apologized, the damage had already been done.

Fortunately, the Mavericks’ social media manager handled the situation very professionally.

Credit

Go Mavs! Credit

Moral of the story? There is a difference between what you can tweet on your personal account and your organization’s account. Be careful and think twice before you post, especially if you are holding the reins of an organization’s reputation.

Are Disney Princesses Damaging Children? (JOUR 4250)

Adults know that Disney princesses’ bodies and stories are pure fantasy. But do young children understand the concept of fantasy? Not completely. Lately the Disney princesses have been receiving a lot of criticism surrounding this issue.

The princesses have perfect bodies, hair and makeup. They are helpless and weak until a prince saves them. Their life goal is to marry that prince and live happily ever after in a palace. Are these characters sending children, especially girls, the wrong message?

Take a look at some recent criticisms:

The Princesses’ Bodies Are Not Realistic

arielAriel
elsaElsa
jazmineJasmine

Photo Credit

Disney Princesses Are Historically Inaccurate

jazmine realJasmine: Fourth Century A.D., Arabian Peninsula
pocahontas realPocahontas: Early 1600s, Virginia
snow white realSnow white: 1500s, Germany

Photo Credit

Disney Princesses’ Hair Is Too Perfect

ariel hair Ariel with wet hair
cinderella hairCinderella with bed head
 mulan hair Mulan with static
pocahontas hair Pocahontas in the wind

Photo Credit

All of these points about the physical characteristics of the princesses are spot on, but there is still a deeper problem that we aren’t talking about.

I grew up watching the Disney princess movies and think I turned out OK. But I can’t deny that there was a time when I believed life would always be picture perfect and someone would always save me if I needed help. We need to stop teaching young girls they can completely depend on a man to be successful and happy. There may be debate about whether or not girls will decide for themselves as they get older, become educated and have a deeper understanding of the world. Everyone’s views are different and there is no absolute truth, but I am all for sending a better message to children. They need to know life does not always go your way, no one is perfect, a man won’t fix all of your problems and it is good to be independent.

Is this the message we want to send? Credit

Is this the message we want to send? Credit

The flip side:

A TV Series that Actually Matters: American Crime (JOUR 4250)

If you have not already been watching ABC’s newest series, American CrimeI highly recommend that you start. Yes, Keeping Up With the Kardashians is entertaining, but it has no application to the majority of Americans’ lives. On the other hand, American Crime is REAL. During a time with so much public focus on police brutality and abuse of power, the show is completely relevant.

Thank you John Ridley (the screenwriter for Twelve Years a Slave) for developing this series. 

The show explores countless other social issues that are prominent in today’s American society. Besides displaying real issues that Americans face on a daily basis, the show reveals how people of every race, gender, religion and social class have problems.

Issues that are explored in-depth include:

  • Murder
  • Hate crimes
  • Racial stereotypes
  • Problems with the justice system
  • Violence
  • Interracial relationships
  • Racism
  • Police violence
  • Religious discrimination
  • Lives of immigrants in the U.S.
  • Lives of illegal immigrants in the U.S.
  • Drug dealing
  • Drug use
  • Addiction
  • Juvenile delinquents
  • Teenage development/thought-process
  • Divorce
  • Adultery
  • Abuse
  • Gangs
  • Family relationships
  • Single parents
  • Homelessness
  • Perceptions of the military and those who enlist
  • Loss of parents
  • Loss of children
  • Life after brain damage

Whew.

The show throws all of these issues into the lives of characters that represent Americans from many different backgrounds. Here is a run-down of the main characters:

  • A white family whose veteran son has been murdered
    • Divorced parents
    • Mother who raised two sons while homeless in Los Angeles and is extremely racist; she is obsessed with getting justice for her son and will not believe that he dealt drugs
    • Father who had a gambling addiction, is struggling to get his life together and trying be there for his children
    • Son is in the army along with his Asian fiancee
    • Son who was murdered was a drug dealer (unknown to family)
  • A white, Christian, conservative family whose daughter was married to the man who was murdered
    • Daughter suffered extreme brain damage when her husband was murdered and doctors thought she had been raped; turns out she was sleeping with multiple other men before the murder
    • Father doesn’t want to accept that his daughter was not a good, Christian girl
    • Mother doesn’t want anything to do with daughter’s husband’s family; she wants her daughter to get better
  • A hispanic family consisting of a father, daughter and son
    • Father tries to “act white” and is overprotective
    • Son ends up in juvie for providing a car the murder was perpetrated with and later for beating a boy (who beat up his sister) with a metal pipe
    • Teenage daughter tries to help her brother, yet is in desperate need of a female guardian; she later decides to live with her aunt and uncle to be around a woman
  • A black man accused of murdering the white man
    • Claims to be innocent, but then he starts to confess to anything if he can see his girlfriend (we still don’t know the truth)
    • The police tortured him for a confession
    • Used drugs heavily before being arrested and beat up a drug dealer with a gun at one point
    • Has times of clarity in which he wants to do better with his life
  • The black man’s white girlfriend
    • A drunk and a drug addict
    • Willing to sell her body for sex so she and her boyfriend would be able to afford drugs
    • It seems that she was adopted, or that her father remarried and had a son
    • Obsessed with finding photos of interracial couples in magazines
    • Killed the drug dealer that her boyfriend beat up
    • Accused her adopted/step-brother of sexual abuse so she would not have to testify against her boyfriend
    • Tries to convince her boyfriend to run from the law and cut off his ankle bracelet while he was sleeping
  • The black man’s sister
    • A converted Muslim with a dark past
    • Leads an organized protest to save her brother
    • Fights against the injustices that her brother has endured
  • A Mexican man living in the U.S. illegally
    • After paying the hispanic boy to use his car, the man then passes the car on to someone who committed the murder
    • The police shoot him in the leg and arrest him
    • In jail, other inmates slice his cheek open with a shank when he tells them that he wants out of a gang
    • Wanted for murder in Mexico and cooperates as much as possible to get a deal to stay in America
    • Has a wife and child in Mexico; he came to America to provide for them

I know the show sounds depressing, but it sheds light on the current state of our country. Hopefully it will make you stop and think. Our words and actions are what can change society. It is our responsibility to fight injustice and steer each other toward a moral and ethical society.

Watch episodes of American Crime on ABC’s website for free.

UPDATE (Spoiler Alert)

In the episode of American Crime that aired tonight, Aubrey (the white girlfriend of the black man) confessed to killing the white man and shooting his wife. While this was shocking to many, I predicted it in the second episode. Certain remarks Aubrey made throughout the episodes confirmed my suspicions.

The reason why she shot the husband and wife are not as obvious as they may seem. She was actually defending herself from rape and murder. While that does not excuse her other crimes, the confession reveals Aubrey’s one semi-redeemable quality: she will (eventually) take responsibility for her actions if it protects those she loves.

I think this is the absolute best way to wrap up the series. No one suspected the white, blonde girl was a murderer and instead blamed the black man. Only people of color (black and hispanic) were punished for crimes in the series, even if they were innocent. The stereotype that white people are always the victims and minorities are always the criminals is despicable, yet it is rampant in America. Anyone could be a victim and anyone could be a criminal, no matter their race.

We’re All Screaming for Ice Cream! (JOUR 4460)

Blue Bell

Blue Bell is finally following in the wise steps of Tylenol by recalling all of its products. According the Centers for Disease Control, the listeria in Blue Bell ice cream has been an issue for four or five years. CDC research shows the bacteria causes about 260 deaths each year along with 1,600 illnesses. This year, there have been 3 deaths and 10 illnesses in Kansas, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The same strain of listeria that made people sick this year is the same strain that made people sick in 2010.

Credit

Listeria is no joking matter. Credit

Connection? The Blue Bell factories. Listeria can stay alive in pipes, tubes and freezing conditions for years unlike some viruses and bacteria. Listeria-contaminated ice cream is obviously not an issue to take lightly. So why did it take Blue Bell so long to do a total recall?

1. Blue Bell has never needed a total voluntary recall in 108 years

2. Blue Bell didn’t want to take a hit to its bottom line for two to three weeks (loss of profit, cost to test and sanitize, cost of staff time while on leave)

This raises a question: Will Blue Bell prices be astronomical when products are back on shelves?

3. Blue Bell didn’t want to take a public hit to its reputation

The fact that it took the company years to do a total recall might actually be worse for its reputation than if it would have recalled its products immediately after people became ill in 2010. But on a positive note, at least the company is now putting its customers first. Blue Bell’s CEO and President Paul Kruse released this statement on April 20:

We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe. We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.

Although he didn’t blatantly admit fault for anyone’s death or illness, the apology and commitment to do better is there. The statement is a little more heartfelt than the typical corporate apology. The company’s use of utilitarianism is good (and ethical) PR.

Find the details about the Blue Bell recall on the company’s website. 

Jeni’s

Another ice cream company, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, also recalled its products on April 23 because of listeria fears. The company hasn’t come across any complaints of illness from its customers, but doesn’t want to take a risk. Jeni’s has the right idea. If there is public fear, the best thing to do is recall products and only sell them when there is 100 percent certainty that the product poses no health risks.

Based in Ohio, the company has scoop shops in Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia, South Carolina and California. Its products can also be ordered online and found in stores like Target and Whole Foods.

Visit the company website for more information on the recall.

Craving Ice Cream?

Don't Worry. It'll be back soon! Credit

Don’t Worry. It’ll be back soon! Credit

After reading about listeria and its effects, I can’t say that I am. But I do know at some point my Blue Bell cravings will come back with a vengeance! For now, I do hope everyone is enjoying their over-priced Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. But just remember, Blue Bell will always be number one (at least in Texas)!

Is the Internet Creating a More Honest Society? (JOUR 4470)

There is no doubt the Internet, social media and 24-hour news cycle have completely changed our society. Has it changed in a negative or positive way? Although I’ve never known a world without the Internet, I must argue it has changed for the better. There are downsides to every transition, but overall the Internet had created a more transparent, connected and honest society.

Because we are all tuned into our smart phones and tablets, it is almost impossible to be unaware of current events and social issues. The constant news cycle allows everyone to be informed, with every available detail, and form an educated opinion in a timely manner. More and more people are getting involved with politics and social causes than ever before because news spreads like wild fire online. Every individual’s thoughts can be heard and considered. Activist groups, political groups and cultural groups clearly explain what they stand for and what they are against, especially through social media. With all of the information out there, we have the ability to decide what we as individuals stand for and consider right and wrong.

A counter argument could be that some people can not control themselves or keep rude and ignorant opinions to themselves. But isn’t that fundamentally being honest? In a perfect world, everyone would abide by an online code of ethics like the NPR social media code of ethics, but this is the real world. Even if the Internet did not exist, people would still have and express those opinions, but with a smaller reach. A smaller reach equals less controversy.

It is difficult to hide racism, sexism, homophobia or any type of ignorance online and on social media. But that is a good thing. It means our society has become more honest and transparent. No one wants to see their mistakes or biases go public, but those mistakes reveal what the majority of society does and does not consider ethical and/or moral. Take the recent Oklahoma University racism chant scandal for example. It is so important for people who are in the wrong to be exposed. In order to end any type of bigotry, our society must learn that you don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinions and beliefs, you must respect and accept them. The only exception is if those beliefs and opinions are resulting in self-inflicted pain.

The fact that everything online inevitably stays online and turns into public information should make every user think twice before they post. You don’t want to make a mistake and ruin your career (or life) like Justine Sacco did:

Everyone must to be careful on social media. On a positive note social media and online forums are the perfect tool to give voice to the voiceless. It is impossible to silence a minority or activist group on the Internet because it would be considered unethical. The Constitution protects our freedom of speech. Therefore, in this case what is legal is also ethical. In 2014 alone, there were countless social media movements that provided awareness and brought change. A few were #BringBackOurGirls after the terrorist kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, #IceBucketChallenge to raise awareness for ALS, and #Ferguson in light of the Michael Brown shooting. Without the Internet, our society would not be as educated, connected, honest or advanced as it is today.

Stereotypes: Women’s Basketball (JOUR 4250)

I played basketball from the time I could walk through high school. But it wasn’t until high school and college that I realized just how many negative stereotypes surrounded women’s basketball.

Women are strong and athletic

Although women began playing basketball in 1892, a year after it was invented, the women who played had many more restrictions than men. Men were shocked when women took off their corsets to play because it was perceived as unladylike. The women were still required to wear floor length dresses that came all the way up their necks though. I can only imagine the injuries that let to! Until 1918, women played with a closed hoop, which released the ball with a pull chain. At one point, women were not even allowed physical contact during the game. All of these and more restrictions were enforced because women were seen as fragile and weak. Men thought they did not belong in sports. Many man still have that perception.

Even though women’s basketball is now played almost exactly the same as men’s basketball (with the exception of the size of the ball and placement of the three-point line), many men resent the women’s game. The WNBA audience is only a fraction of the size of the NBA audience and receives only a fraction of the media attention compared to the NBA. Overall, women’s sports receive less than five percent of all sports media coverage. 

Many men and women believe that girls and women are simply not as good at basketball as men. Perhaps this perception is the reason why women’s sports receive less coverage. While there may be male basketball players that are indeed better than some female basketball players, there are also females who are better than their male counterparts. Debate.org poses this question: “Should women’s sports get just as much media coverage as men’s?” I find this particular response despicable:

“Men are better physically than women. It’s just how it is.” Is that right? I don’t think so. While extremely athletic men may have more physical capability than extremely athletic women, I am willing to bet that almost all women’s NCAA and WNBA basketball players, take Candice Parker for example, are better than the vast majority of men who do not play basketball and are not athletic.

Candace Parker - Credit

Candace Parker Credit

The responder also poses the question, “Why not have women play in men’s sports leagues?” Obviously men and women are physically different. No one would force ten-year-olds to play against 20-year-olds because of the difference in height and strength. The average height in the NBA is almost 6’7″ while the average height in the WNBA is 6′ (that’s a huge gap)!

So who is any male (especially men who do not participate in the sport) to criticize the female basketball players?

Women are viewed through society’s judgmental eyes

Aside from the false stereotype that women are weak and just not good enough to play basketball, there are the ugly, masculine and lesbian stereotypes. This is a great blog post covering these annoying stereotypes. Personally I am heterosexual, consider myself femininely attractive, yet strong, and not aggressive. I’d rather watch and listen before giving my opinion.

In my 11 years of playing competitive basketball, I came across a few girls who were gay, but who cares! Wouldn’t that happen in any sport or even in daily life? I was there to play basketball, not question who liked boys and who liked girls (palm to forehead). I think the stereotype that female basketball players are ugly stems from being sweaty, in loose-fitting clothing and wearing no makeup while playing a sport that men also play. Society tells us that women who are not wearing tight dresses and makeup are ugly. Lastly, women who have muscles are still feminine. Muscles are awesome. They make you healthy, strong and attractive. Why do women have to be soft and curvy to be considered feminine?

Ultimately, these stereotypes are a result of society telling us what is and is not acceptable. The media virtually ignoring women’s basketball only supports the stereotypes. If the media created more equality in airtime, newspapers and magazines, perhaps things would begin to change. So when will these barriers be broken? A woman is running for president, professional football players are coming out, we currently have a biracial president and same-sex marriage is legal. There is no such thing as “normal” anymore.

 

Lane Bryant vs. Victoria’s Secret (JOUR 4460)

On Monday, Lane Bryant launched its “I’m No Angel” advertising campaign. The ads promote the brand’s Cacique lingerie line. Lane Bryant is taking a stand against the false perception that most or all women have perfect bodies like the Victoria’s Secret’s Angels.

The brand’s website says, “The women who wear Cacique know that sexy comes in many shapes and sizes. They’re no angels—and they own it.” The print and video ads feature plus-sized models like Ashley Graham, who has modeled for the brand before, while the campaign invites other women to join in redefining what sexy is by posting and using the hashtag #ImNoAngel.

Lane Bryant is paralleling the VS Angels in another way by introducing each of the six plus-size models and telling their individual stories. Victoria’s Secret hasn’t had much of a response, except for continuing to post photos and videos of the VS Angels.

In terms of public relations, running off of what Victoria’s Secret is doing is brilliant. Considering VS is the most popular lingerie brand in the nation, Lane Bryant will get more impressions and media attention by creating its own “Angel” brand. And at the moment if you search “Victoria’s Secret Angels” in Google, some of the first news results are about Lane Bryant. And although the campaign is paid media, there will most likely be positive feedback and negative backlash for Lane Bryant. Therefore, public relations strategies and tactics must be applied to handle the interactions from its publics.

The company has already made one smart PR move: CEO Linda Heasley gave an interview explaining the campaign’s intentions. 

Many women are proud of what Lane Bryant is doing and have joined in the campaign through Twitter and Instagram. The brand has also created a Tumblr page devoted to the #ImNoAngel campaign to feature all of the women joining in.

But there are also critics saying the Lane Bryant is trying to body shame others who don’t look like the plus-size models.

I don’t think that Lane Bryant is trying to body shame anyone. I think they’re trying to show that yes, there may be some women who look like Victoria’s Secret models, but that the majority of women do not have perfect bodies. On the other hand, Lane Bryant probably should have taken into consideration that VS sells lingerie and clothing that will fit women of many sizes. Either way, running off the popular Angel theme is earning Lane Bryant a lot of attention.