Fall 2016 2

My students’ first weekly blog posts came in the past few days, which is always one of my favorite parts of the term. When I read their posts for the first few times I get to see who they are, how they think and how they write. I sense their relief at getting these projects off and running, at realizing writing about your passions is fun.

Typewriters, Baker City, Oregon -Kathryn Thier

Typewriters, Baker City, Oregon
-Kathryn Thier


At the same time, reading their posts reminded me how hard it is to blog. Finding your voice takes time. Crystallizing the PR angle (the goal of these blogs) is challenging. Learning how long is too long – and how that changes with each post – takes a long time. But that’s why we blog so much and so often in this class. By the end of the term their writing will be transformed. Their ability to see how PR underlies so many issues in the news will skyrocket. Their voices will mature. And so the end of the term is also another one of my favorite parts. So here’s to seven more weeks!

(And yes, I do read more than Mashable, although it doesn’t seem like it based on this week’s insPiRation.)

Should You Trust The American Red Cross With Your Donation For Haiti? (The Huffington Post)
How might the American Red Cross try to repair its image in Haiti through its response to Hurricane Matthew’s destruction? Do you think the negative press the American Red Cross received was fair or not? How can nonprofits protect their reputations when they’re held to a different standard than corporations? How damaging to the Red Cross is Edwidge Danticat’s suggestion that people support Haitian organizations instead? What publics will Danticat resonate with?

Pro Sports…
In a Pioneering Moment for the W.N.B.A., Players United in Protests Over Injustices (The New York Times)
What are the PR risks and opportunities for African American athletes who take on police brutality and racial injustice? Is it different for female athletes than male athletes – and why? Does the PR calculus change when it’s across a league versus just one (like Kaepernick) or a few?

Kaiser Channels Kendrick Lamar To Talk About Depression (Mashable)
Do some research and figure out if Lamar authorized this. If he did, what opportunities and risks might there be for his reputation? If he didn’t, how should he respond to maintain his image and his brand?
Read More…


Fall 2016 1

As I told my students I initially viewed the idea of blogging with deep skepticism. (This was back in the early aughts when blogging as a journalist meant regurgitating stuff from your notebook that didn’t make it into your published story.)

But now blogging is one of my favorite things. I do it each time I teach J452: Strategic Public img_3342Relations Communication at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. Each student also blogs, picking a theme tied to an industry or facet of PR that interests them, and also builds and executes and accompanying personal social media strategy. They blog mostly twice a week: one blog post about a topic they choose related to their theme and one in response to a news item about their theme I’ve picked.

That means from fashion to foreign policy and from cosmetics to cars, the students’ themes keep me looking at the news in a new light. Yes, I’m still reading stories about politics, race, sports, celebrities, the media landscape and social issues, but I’m looking for ones that either showcase or hint at the role public relations plays in our world.

This (hopefully) makes students look at the news in a new light, to see the PR everywhere.  In this quarter’s first installment of weekly insPiRation, they’ll find stories that touch on personal brand and image management, company brand, crisis communications, corporate social responsibility, media relations and more.

Take a look:

Autos…Ad & PR…
Trying To Disrupt the Auto Industry With The Onion’s Help (The New York Times)
How are advertising and public relations being combined in service of Elio’s brand and to raise brand awareness? Is a risky strategy like this just what a three-wheeled car company needs or is it a mistake? How does it compare to the PR strategy of another industry disrupter, Tesla? (PS: Who likes regular car commercials anyway?)

Foreign policy…
Antonio Guterres To Be Next UN Secretary General (The Guardian)
Guterres is widely seen as competent and was unanimously chosen, yet his choice was a surprise to many who thought it was a woman’s turn. How can Guterres appeal within his organization and to leaders around the world who either wanted a woman or someone not so vocal about refugees? What credibility does he bring as a spokesman for “the downtrodden” and do you expect him to change public opinion around the world? Is it good or bad for the UN’s mission that secretary general candidates now have to brand themselves and make public appeals for the post?

Foreign policy… fashion…

Kate Middleton’s Tour of Canada: A Designer Scorecard (The New York Times)
How did Kate Middleton use fashion to support Britain’s foreign policy messages on this trip? In other words, what’s the connect between fashion and foreign policy PR? In today’s social media world, why is fashion more important than ever to foreign policy?
Read More…

Season’s end

The end of the quarter is nigh.
That means the last week of my students’ blog (unless they feel so into blogging at this point that they just can’t stop.) Which will totally happen. So my advice, is take it to the next level. One of my favorite blogs, Mac’s List, has great advice this week on 7 Smart Ways to Market Your Social Change Blog, whether or not you blog about nonprofits. We’ve just scratched the surface with blogging – there’s so much more to learn.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Speaking of learning, as part of the whole blogging thing students also created personal branding social media plans this term. The plans detailed by strategic, tactic and platform the steps they’d take to integrate their social media use and their blog to learn about and show familiarity with their chosen topic as it relates to the PR industry. (If you read my weekly insPiRation links, you can see what topics they chose.) Always, students write ambitious personal social media plans; usually, they find it hard to keep up. That’s part of the point, realizing how much goes into strategic social media. So this week students will reflect on what they learned:
What was challenging? What was useful? Did certain platforms matter more to their industry than they thought? Did they follow their editorial calendar, and if not, why? Which platforms worked as planned for which strategies, and which didn’t? Was something unexpected? What did they learn about strategic social media overall? Read their blogs this week to find out.

Oh, and you can also read their responses to my weekly insPiRation.

K-Thier out. (Mic drop.)

Wine… beverage…
Can the Pop-Top Wine Can Survive Its Faddish Stage? (The Washington Post)
Another week at PRMinders, another wacky rosé story. Why is the pop-top wine going Back to the Future? What role do Millennials and craft beer culture play? What’s the scenario?

Women’s Fitness…
Women Shuts Down Haters With Honest Weight Loss Instagram Photos (Mashable)
How have individuals’ stolen women fitness magazines’ thunder in the age of social media? How can social media promote and encourage, and also discourage women from becoming fit?

Fashion…tech…women’s fitness…
How K-Deer Became an Instagram It-brand (Well+Good)
How did K-Deer use Instagram to break into the athleisurewear phenomenon? Can fashion start-ups beat out lululemon using social media – or is it just because K-Deer’s patterns are just so visually appealing? What do you make of the fact that the founders runs the Instagram?

Read More…

Week 8 madness

This term my students’ infographics were the strongest as a group I’ve seen. So as they finish up their social media audits and conversations analysis reports and then prepare presentations on them, I thought I’d share an infographic on conquering public speaking anxiety. To me, the best tip here is “RESHIFT: Ask yourself “What does my audience need to know about the topic?” and “How can I ensure they get the information they need?” It dovetails with what we talked about it class, the Presentation Zen method. It’s all about audience and message, baby. Can’t wait to see how you engage us the last day of class.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Sea-Tac Airpot to Hire 90 Contractors to Help Shrink Security Lines (The Seattle Times)
Sea-Tac is apparently the fastest-growing airport of its size. So what are its PR challenges and opportunities (including long security lines)?

Events… sports…
When a Country in Turmoil Hosts the Olympics (The New York Times)
What special PR challenges are there for a country in turmoil to host an event of this magnitude? How can Brazil allay concerns about Zika and its politics to put its best foot forward to the world?

Sports…race…college sports
ESPN’s The Undefeated Debuts And It’s A Must Read (All Digitocracy)
What do you think of ESPN’s idea for a separate website on sports, race, pop culture and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)? What PR goals at ESPN do you think are driving this new journalistic endeavor? Is the criticism about no stories on female or LGBTQ athletes fair or is it too early to level that charge? Do HBCUs get the sports coverage they deserve in other media?

Muirfield Removed From British Open Rotation After Vote Against Women (The Wall Street Journal)
Why did the Royal and Ancient take so long to take a stand? Why can golf not afford to offend women now, even regarding the male athlete tours? Is this gender equity?


How Sports Fans Are Using Facebook Reactions (News Whip)
Pick one of the emotions: How could the teams on that list use their standing to their advantage? What PR challenges and opportunities come with fans’ engagement with them on social media? Read More…

Next next

Courtesy of Pinterest

I’ve been grading my students’ corporate social responsibility memos and I’m really impressed. They’ve come up with some great CSR program proposals for major companies. (I may share some at the end of the term.)

In J452, it can seem as if we flit from owned media tactic to owned media tactic. A lot gets crammed into 10 weeks. But I hope each assignment awakens students to new ideas, not just about PR but about the world and how it works. Even if they never work for a corporation’s communications team and never have to write another CSR memo, students will encounter corporate social responsibility as a consumer.

And with corporate social responsibility the stakes are high. The news this week included two of the more interesting CSR efforts I’ve heard of in awhile: Target refusing the reverse its gender inclusive public restroom policy despite a potential consumer boycott and Pfizer blocking its drugs from being used for lethal injections in prisons. In Target’s case, the company inserted itself into the national dialogue about transgender equality, a bold move. In Pfizer’s case, the company took a stand against the death penalty, another fraught issue. Both were ultimately about how the company treats people, one of the three ‘P’s in the triple bottom line (people, planet and profits). The Pfizer case reminded me of a CSR initiative we examined in class: when CVS decided not to sell cigarettes. In these instances, the companies decided – in different ways – that a product was incompatible with their values.

Courtesy of recyclenation.com

Courtesy of recyclenation.com

On that note, here’s the first item of this week’s insPiRation: Nike, a company well-known to UO students, just announced Nike adopts ambitious environmental, workplace goals (The Oregonian).

PS: In keeping with the corporate social responsibility theme, the typewriter pictures this week are all of recycled typewriters. Enjoy!

Environment… fashion…
Nike adopts ambitious environmental, workplace goals (The Oregonian)
What do you think of these new goals? Why is Nike announcing them now? What is the PR impact if the company doesn’t reach them? What about the polyester issue – and Nike recycling it – do consumers care about the ecological impact of their shoes and athletic wear?

Race… Fashion… Ad & PR…
Study Finds That 78% of Models in Fashion Adverts Are White (The Guardian)
Why should the fashion industry include more models of color? Do the labels that do generate goodwill with their audiences?

Courtesy of Beading Gem

Courtesy of Beading Gem

Read More…

Coming ‘Round the Bend

My students’ blogs are really hitting their strides. It’s about to be Week 7 in our 10-week term, and their blogs are showing it. The writing is more focused, more on point… students are seeing the PR angles in their topics, and developing a sense of voice and pace. At the start of the term blogging intimidates some of them, but now many say it’s actually not so bad (and even fun). A large piece of Strategic Writing & Communication is for students to develop a personal brand related to PR through blogging, social media and other class assignments. Some of it’s personal and some of it’s for hypothetical clients. All of it helps them differentiate themselves to future employers. In fact, in Ragan’s 4 Ways Students Can Land PR Internships, three of the four ways are things students in J452 practice: gain practical knowledge even when you don’t have experience, give cover letters your best efforts and know the industry. And I’d argue it teaches them how to do the fourth – do your homework – as well. See, J452 students, I wasn’t kidding: The whole class will help you get ahead.

So here’s this week’s insPiRation. Get to it!

Typewriter displayed at UO's Psychology Department

Typewriter displayed at UO’s Psychology Department

No One Wants to Go to DiBlasio’s Birthday Party (The New York Post)
What should PR pros do when an event itself creates bad PR? How do events planned long in advance fit strategically when conditions change?

Clean Air Agency Informs Through Content Curation (Ragan)
What makes the Northwest Clean Air Agency’s brand journalism strategy so smart? What can other environmental governmental agencies learn from it?

Race… Ad & PR…Fashion…
Old Navy Ad Features Interracial Family, Internet Responds in Worst Way, Best Way (The Oregonian)
John McCain’s Son to the ‘Ignorant Racists’ Criticizing an Old Navy Ad With an Interracial Couple: “Eat It” (The Washington Post)
How would you respond (if at all) if you worked for Old Navy’s PR team? Does this help or hurt Old Navy’s brand?

Race…TV & Cinema…
#Broadway So Diverse (Mashable)
What can Hollywood learn from Broadway? How should Broadway capitalize on this to attract new audiences and build its brand?

Women in Tech Band Together to Track Diversity, After Hours (The New York Times)
How is this group trying to raise awareness, change attitudes and spark action? How does Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity hurt its PR efforts with internal and external audiences?

Read More…

really ahhh

I finally finished that great big writing project I mentioned last week. That included staying up until 3 a.m. Saturday night revising it and hours more today putting on the final touches.

This is what I felt like all week:

(I always have a typewriter in my blog visuals, but this is the first GIF!)

One reason it took so long was that academic writing is new to me. And I’m figuring a lot out on my own. I don’t completely understand academic writing’s underlying structure. If you can’t see the bones, writing feels laborious. But once you unlock what I call the skeleton mystery I think writing feels like play.

That’s why with my students I always try to demystify writing structures, as in my take on cover letters: 1) Here’s big picture why I’m right for the job, 2) Let me tell you a little more about why I’m right for the job, 3) Here are some details about why I’m right for the job, 4) Did I mention I’m getting/have a degree? 5) (Softly) here’s why I’m a good fit. 6) I’ll be following up.

Writing is thinking made manifest,” according to Ellen Goldberger, a professor at Mount Ida College. That has stuck in my head since I first heard it about a year ago. But to make your thinking manifest, it helps to know the order. We can think (and write) so much quicker when we’ve trained our brains how to organize our thoughts. I tell my Reporting I and Media Relations & Strategic Writing students that after I’d been a reporter for awhile I could write a 10-inch inverted pyramid story in 10 minutes if I had to. Because I’d practiced it over and over. Because I’d trained my brain to think in that structure.

Not every writing structure is as formulaic as the inverted pyramid. Blogging, which requires voice and taking a stance, is trickier. But I’m hoping students are at the point in the term where it’s starting to feel a little easier. Those first few (okay, 100) go-rounds with a new style of writing are challenging. Sometimes it feels like work. Then you get a peek at when it feels like play. And the mystery begins to unravel.

Here’s your insPiRation – keep it up!

From 2017, All new Mobile Phones in India Will Have Panic Button For Women’s Safety (Mashable)
Should Apple and Samsung do this in their other markets too? What would be the PR value? (Based on our discussion of CSR these week, what else would companies have to consider when making this decision?)

In Johnny Manziel, Failure as Entertainment (The New York Times)
What role has PR played in Manziel’s demise? What responsibilities do PR professionals have toward people in the public eye who are not their clients? How has social media changed the way image is constructed?

College sports… sports…
Officials: North Carolina Must Show Proof of Discrimination-Free Zone or Lose NCAA Tournament Games (ESPN.com)
What does this move by the NCAA say about its audiences? Are there any PR risks for the NCAA in taking this stance when some say college sports don’t do enough to welcome and protect LGBT athletes?

Read More…


This has never happened before. Really.
I’m totally at a loss for a blog topic.
I think it’s because I’m in the midst of a different huge writing project that’s due in a week and I can’t focus on much else. But still.

I’ve thought about the news, about Prince’s sudden death, about teaching and writing… and I still can’t come up with something.  I’m going to chalk it up to this other looming writing project and pretend not to be scared that this week the well has run dry. Because there’s always looming deadlines for writing projects of all sizes. As long as you do your reporting and stay in the world by reading writer’s block is a myth. (Or so I have told myself.)

Maybe I need to go for some walks or meditate. Or stop eating potato chips.

So J452 students, I hope this doesn’t happen to you this week. Just to make sure it doesn’t, here’s your weekly insPiRation:

Event planning…
Event Planning Industry Shows Staying Power (Greenwich Time)
The growth rate for event planners is expected to grow faster than the national average for all occupations. Why? In today’s world where technology can do so many things and DIY culture thrives why do people still  seek professional event planners? How can event planners differentiate themselves?

Race and diversity…
Twitter Users React to Harriet Tubman’s New Place on the $20 Bill (PR Daily)
What do you think about the debates? Why is currency PR, literally? What audiences is the Treasury Department trying to reach?

College sports… sports… 
How Morgan Stanley is Helping Student-Athletes Plan for the Future (USA Today)
Why is this a good PR move for Morgan Stanley? How does this fit into the larger battles over student-athletes and whether they should be paid?

Ad & PR… TV & Cinema…
Disney’s Savvy Marketing of ‘The Jungle Book’ (The New York Times)
What do you think of Disney’s marketing of ‘The Jungle Book’? Is this what’s needed to push through the fog of our oversaturated media environment?

Environment… TV & Cinema….
Leonardo DiCaprio Makes a Bold Earth Day Plea for Climate Action (Mashable)
According to the article, “DiCaprio is a U.N. Messenger of Peace, and his charity foundation focuses on environmental issues, including climate change.” Does DiCaprio speaking out to politicians drive change? Is this just a calculated ploy by DiCaprio to bolster his image or do you think he cares about the Earth? What is the role of celebrity voice on social issues?

10 Ways to Be a Greener Traveler, Even if You Love to Fly (The New York Times)
How might PR practitioners in the industry you follow capitalize on these tips to attract new audiences? What messages can companies send about environmentalism that enhance their strategic purpose?

Keurig’s New K-Cup Coffee is Recyclable, But Hardly Green (The New York Times)
What do you think of Keurig’s move? How challenging is it for companies to make substantive sustainability changes? Does Keurig have a PR problem or do people just want their convenient coffee?

Wine…beverage… environment…
Study Finds Climate Change Could Be Leading to Better Wine (NPR)
While this is good news for wine drinkers in the short run, it isn’t good news for wine drinkers as Earth dwellers in the long run. Is this a PR issue for the wine industry? Is there a way wine PR pros could turn this into a PR opportunity that underscores winemakers’ care for the land?

Ad & PR… environment…
Seventh Generation Taps Maya Rudolph for its Biggest Campaign Yet (The New York Times)
Now that being green is in what are the challenges and opportunities for long-time “green” brands?

Women’s fitness… Ad & PR… fashion…
Athleta’s New Campaign Wants You To Embrace #Squadgoals (Well + Good)
and Gap Inc.’s Athlete Debuts First TV Spot (Advertising Age)
What do you think about this campaign – will it help Athlete reach its audiences? Or is it a shameless ploy? Do Athleta’s customers need this inspiration? If you identify as female, how do you feel about brands using “female empowerment” to sell workout clothes?

Ad & PR…
Yoga in the Morning? This Ad Knows You Ain’t Got Time For That (Mashable)
Why is this ad so smart? Do you think women will identify with it?

Sports… Ad & PR… Fashion…
Brand Managers Set Their Sights on NBA Jerseys (PR Daily)
Is this a good PR move for the NBA? Or will fans turn away in disgust? If other sports’ leagues do it does it make it okay – or will the NBA’s audiences react differently? As a fan, do you want to wear a jersey with a commercial on it?

ESPN Finally Grows Tired of Curt Schilling’s Barbed Language (The New York Times)
Do you agree with ESPN’s decision? Should athletes who are stars in their own right before they work for media have the right to express their own political and personal beliefs? Why did ESPN react differently to Bomani Jones wearing a “Caucasian” shirt?

HOW TO: Get Your Nonprofit Started on Snapchat (Nonprofit Tech for Good)
Great tips here. What’s your favorite and why? Take a nonprofit you know and tell us your idea for how it could use one of the tips. How is technology helping nonprofits, which often don’t have huge PR budgets, tell their stories and reach their audiences?

Girl Scouts Appoints Christine Cea as Chief Communications Executive (PR Newser)
Why do PR professionals speak about purpose? What PR challenges and opportunities face the Girl Scouts in the next 100 years (or so)?

REI Opens Disaster Relief Center in Nepal a Year After Devastating Earthquake (Mashable)
Is this a PR win for REI Adventures? Or will some people see it as exploitative? What are the PR challenges when wealth First World residents “tour” in less developed places?

From typewriters to the moon

Last weekend, for the first time I walked through the Linguistics Department at UO. A display case highlighted machines used by researchers throughout the department’s history. Of course, the one that caught my eye was a typewriter, despite the unfamiliar and inventive other options. But it wasn’t just any typewriter; it was a Yiddish typewriter. The placard said researchers carried it with them in the field to record notes. As much as I’m a typewriter fan, I can’t imagine hauling one around with me, but that is indeed what researchers and reporters did back in the day.


I snapped a photo of it with my iPhone and texted that to my aunt, who showed it to my grandmother whose parents spoke Yiddish to her as a child in Brooklyn. She’d never seen a Yiddish typewriter, which surprised me although I guess it shouldn’t have.

Since then I’ve been thinking about that Yiddish typewriter from years past and the blogs my students are creating today. It seems we’ve come so far yet someday 100 years from now some college instructor may walk (or hover) past a display case of blogs and social media and be bemused by what they saw.

Until then, here’s your weekly insPiRation:

The Rogue: Oregon’s Southernmost AVA a Hot Spot for World-Class Wine and Tourism (Oregon Wine Press)
Wine Enthusiast named the Rogue Valley and Ashland one of 2016’s Top 10 global wine destinations. How might this impact the area? Press attention is often seen as positive, but how should Oregon’s Southernmost AVA retain the characteristics that make it popular while growing in appeal? Can an area’s image withstand additional attention?

Women’s Fitness…

Walking Together for Health and Spirit (The New York Times)
Can nonprofits use PR tactics to advance women’s health and address racial health disparities? How is GirlTrek using social media to attract its audience?

Read More…

Together again

Together again. My blog and I are together again after two years apart.
It’s not that I didn’t think about my blog since May 2014 or often feel quite guilty for ignoring it. (And a little ashamed. I tell my students how hard it is to blog, how tough it is to keep up with it.) But I also tell students it’s a routine, albeit a pleasurable one. Much like exercise, the more you do it the better you feel and the better you get at it.

Luckily for me, I’m teaching J452: Strategic Public Relations Communications again for the first time since 2014. In this class at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication students create a PR-inspired blog and blog twice a week over the quarter. That means that I’m blogging too because I need to serve them up a weekly dose of insPiRation, prompts about their theme topics I cull each week from the headlines. Reading the news with an eye for whatever topics they’ve chosen – aviation, sports, fashion, nonprofits, race and so on – is one of my favorite things about this assignment. It forces me to read the news with a different, more focused lens – and to see the PR in everything. It also pushes students to quickly “see the PR” in topics they might not have considered, a skill that will serve them well in their careers.

Courtesy of The British Library and Creative Commons

Courtesy of The British Library and Creative Commons

But perhaps my most favorite thing about this assignment is to see students transform from tentative bloggers – (“What? You want me to write with a voice for the first time in my academic work? And I have to come up with two posts a week? And do the other assignments in this class?”) – to thoughtful public relations commentators about a topic that drives them and their career ambitions. Over the quarter, students find their voice, develop discipline about writing and create an online professional persona. It’s exciting.

So Spring 2016 J452, here’s your first round of insPiRation:

Event planning… tech…
That Phone Is Helping Plan Your Super Expensive Wedding (Mashable)
How is technology changing the role of IRL event planners? What can event planners do to adjust and remain relevant?

Sports…college sports….
Saying UConn Hurts Women’s Basketball is Misogyny Disguised as Legitimate Sports Opinion (SB Nation)
The Huskies just won their fourth straight NCAA title prompting more people to suggest they are “destroying” women’s hoops. How have some team members responded to their critics? What opportunities and challenges exist for players who speak out about this, especially as many of them intend to go pro?
Read More…


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