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!
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?
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?
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 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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
As you can tell by my blog title, I’m feeling a little frenzied.
Truth be told, I actually have had “whew” and “another whew” as my working blog title the past three weeks. This week was the first I let it stand. I probably shouldn’t be admitting this.
For some reason, this term has seemed to move at warp speed. I’m not the only one who thinks this. Nearly every student or colleague I’ve talked to agrees. The zeitgest of Spring Term 2014 is that it’s moved too quickly.
And the next few weeks will fly by even faster. Just three more classes and some portfolio reviews and the term will be over. That means this is the last time I share insPiRation this term. And my students have just one last round of blogs to write.
As I wrote in the beginning, I love finding articles to share that spark students’ interests. Finding music, travel, craft beer, cinema, food, nutrition and global health stories with PR angles forced me to read the news differently than last term. And it’s always fun to keep up with sports, fashion and social media. I loved watching students grow and improve as writers as they blogged. Each student is a stronger blogger than when he or she started.
So despite the crush of term’s end, give these last posts everything you’ve got. Slow down and show me everything you’ve learned.
I tweeted a question @APStyle several weeks back that came up in one of my classes. The question was whether certain pairs of words, such as public relations and event planning, would require hyphenation as a compound modifier if preceding a noun. A burning question, I know. But in my Strategic PR Communication class, this actually comes up quite a bit.
I believe the answer is no. But I wanted some reinforcement and a better way to explain it to my students. So I tweeted @APStyle with little hope of reply. But a reply did come: “Great question. I shall direct you to the@AP or @APStyle for the answer.”
I would screenshot this exchange, but I’m afraid of starting a viral war a la Jay Z-Beyonce-Solange. That could happen, you know. AP aficionados are fierce. Check out this example I shared with my students.
But I digress. The reply angered me because if I knew the answer I wouldn’t have asked the question. I am the queen of figuring out where and why and how the AP Stylebook works. West Coast: capitals or not? Why, check under regions and directions, naturally.
And I approach teaching AP Style with what I hope is effective: sarcasm. (I also employ some other more pedagogical strategies to encourage knowledge creation and deep learning, but that’s for another time.) I could harangue students about how useful AP Style is and why it’s necessary for journalists and PR professionals. But instead, I recognize that it seems arcane, foreign, intimidating and silly to 20-somethings. So I do a lot of joking. And students do a lot of learning.
One PR student wrote last term that she learned more about AP Style than she ever thought possible.
When I gave a quiz that included an excerpt from The Washington Post in my Reporting I class two weeks ago , most of the class caught a style error the paper made that I never even noticed.
So what I’m trying to say is that I feel a little crushed. I’ve valiantly championed the cause of AP and all I got was this lousy tweet.
But in a few hours, once my ire subsides, I know I’ll start laughing, or at least smirking. Because the AP Style editor’s response was pretty much what I tell students when they ask me similar questions. I say:
“Who has an AP Stylebook? Let’s find the answer.”
(On a side note, I swear I read more than just The New York Times. But the Grey Lady just had too many relevant articles for this week’s insPiRation.)
To create a successful infographic, it’s important to decide what information to include and what to leave out.
That’s the challenge my Strategic PR Communication students face as they work on the first draft of their infographics assignment this weekend.
So I was especially intrigued by this Harvard Business Review blog post Visualizing Zero: How to Show Something with Nothing. The post explores the question, “How do we make the slippery attributes of nothingness visible?” The author looks at three categories of nothingness: showing the absence of data, representing zero and utilizing emptiness. Examples include the state of the polar bear (and Russian unwillingness to release its data), how no MLB players wear #42 now that Mariano Rivera retired and the lack of cholera deaths in 1854 London at a brewery.
In addition to the added challenge of representing nothingness, in each case the infographic designer still had to make complex data easily understood.
Making infographics, especially persuasive infographics, is tricky. As in any PR exercise, it’s crucial to distill one’s information to key messages.
Here are some student examples, (shared with permission), from last term for inspiration:
- Kimberly Chin pushed to increase local blood donations
- Ruby Hillcraig promoted fashion brands using Pinterest
- Brianna Amaranthus promoted the Trail Blazers new Pulse Page
- Shaina Hayutin described why Millennials prefer to receive news via humor
And with that, here’s some more weekly insPiRation:
Blog topics bubbled up for me all this week. There were great news stories, connections I saw between lessons in my journalism and public relations classes, and excitement about my students’ work.
But at the last minute those ideas evaporated, with good reason.
This afternoon I learned about nine Ethiopian bloggers, journalists and human rights defenders who were arrested by the Ethiopian government for their pro-democracy writings. The Zone 9 bloggers, as they are called, are the friends of Endalk Chala, a Ph.D. student at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, where I work. Chala, who I have not met, is an Ethiopian blogger and co-founder of the Zone 9 blog.
To help release his friends, Chala is asking people to post pictures of themselves holding signs with “Blogging is not a crime” to a Tumblr site.
Hearing this got me thinking about my students and the blogging work they’re doing this term in my Strategic PR Communication class. Each blogs twice a week on a personally chosen PR-related theme. Unlike last term, where some students had overtly political themes or often wrote about politicians through the lens of crisis communications or image management, this term no one is ostensibly political.
But whether they’re blogging about public relations as it relates to cinema in Oregon, craft beer, global public health, fashion, nutrition, sports, tourism and travel, cooking, social media or music, each student is taking a stance – and is free to do so. Not everyone will agree with everything they write, but my students don’t fear imprisonment because of it.
For them, blogging is a way to develop their personal brands and public relations expertise. Luckily, for them that’s not a crime.
And with that inspiration in mind, here’s some insPiRation to keep on blogging.
Food/nutrition & public health & PR/marketing…
Stealth Vegetables (The New York Times)
What do you think about efforts by food producers, processed food manufacturers and grocers to entice people to eat more vegetables and improve Americans’ health? Are Veggie Blend-ins – check out the video – healthy food or processed junk? What marketing or PR is effective in getting people to adopt healthy habits?
Sports & social media…
‘We Are All Monkeys’ (BBC News)
An uplifting story about ugly fan behavior in soccer. Comment on this hashtag activism against racism in sports. What do you think of athletes taking stances on social issues via social media? Does it help or hurt their brands?