Fall #5

I have a black thumb when it comes to design. That why when my students create persuasive infographics it’s always one of my favorite parts of the term. Students always go beyond what they thought they were capable of with this assignment, including the ones, like me who would rather vomit than arrange something.

One of my all-time favorite student infographics was from the first term I taught, created by Kimberly Chin (UO ’14), now an account manager for the Oregon Media Group (The Oregonian | OregonLive) in Portland. It’s simple, arresting and unusually leads with the call to action.


Last spring, some strong student examples included two about the environment –  Keala Verigan’s on e-waste and Sarah Arnell’s on textile waste – and Haley Dowell’s on racial disparities in the U.S. prison population and one on movie ratings.

I can’t wait to see what students come up with this term.

Just for fun: Can you identify the design theme of each of the typewriter infographics in this post?

And here’s your (non-infographic) insPiRation:

Foreign policy…
Why do Diplomats Use This Alien WhatsApp Emoji for Vladimir Putin? (The Guardian)
Beyond the sheer “whoa” factor in this article, what does this trend mean for diplomacy communication? Can you see other ways diplomats could use social media to build consensus and support for their messages? Is there something seamy about this or is this just another example of technology changing communication?

Fans’ Favorite Live Sports Requirement? Bandwidth (CNN)
How could sports teams capitalize on these findings to improve their relationship with their publics?

Cosmetics & Skin Care…
Women Doing Their Makeup on the Train Are ‘Ugly,’ Says Japanese Commercial (The Washington Post)
How did an awareness campaign about train etiquette by Tokyu Corp. go so wrong? Do you think the company did its audience research? Since people may have no choice but to ride Tokyo’s trains to work, does the damage to the company’s brand matter?
Read More…


Fall #4

This week I chaired a panel of three editors and executives from three very different news outlets – Oregon Public Broadcasting, the (Klamath Falls) Herald and News, and Por Más Tiempo, the biggest media cooperative of Argentina which publishes Tiempo Argentino – as they discussed how their newsrooms are transforming for the ongoing digital revolution. I had pitched attending the panel to my J452 PR students because I thought they might be curious, from a media relations standpoint, how newsrooms are changing. While the panel discussion focused on journalism rather than public relations, I was struck by how much of what they said had PR overtones. In short, they talked about using digital opportunities to build and maintain relationships with audiences and to define their brand identities. Jan Boyd, director of digital strategy and community engagement at OPB, spoke of how breaking a news story into component parts and pushing it out on various platforms based on audience research was about telling the right story with the right channel at the right time to the right audience, something SOJC’s PR area director Kelli Matthews says when she defines PR. So see, students, I’m not kidding when I say the PR angles are everywhere. And here’s your weekly insPiRation to prove it:

Foreign Policy…
Russia Welcomes Growing Wave of ‘Red Tourists’ From China (The Wall Street Journal)
Discuss how straining East-West ties are playing out in unexpected ways, changing Chinese perception of fashionable tourism. How have Chinese and Russian leaders used foreign policy to shore up tourism, a key economic driver? Is there anything Western powers can do to repair their image as an attractive tourist destination for Chinese travelers?

Colin Kaepernick: ‘There’s Nothing That Anybody’s Going to Say That’s Going to Change How I Feel About These Issues’ (The Undefeated)
A lot has been written about Colin Kaepernick’s pre-game protests. But how do you think his image might change if more news outlets carried this larger story, about how ongoing commitment to youth of color and these issues? What’s your take on his statement that “these issues exist whether or not football exists…football just allows a platform to have conversations on a greater extent about these issues”? Do you think the media isn’t telling the story that many fans may respect him for his social stance?

Ad & PR…
Wells Fargo Launches Ad Campaign to Earn Back Customer Trust (Housingwire)
The perfect intersection of ad and PR: an ad campaign specifically focused on repairing a damaged relationship with a company/brand’s key public. Will it work? How could Wells Fargo’s PR department mesh its strategy with the ad department’s strategy here?

Typewriter belonging to SOJC Journalism Instructor Charlie Butler. Thanks, Charlie, for letting me photograph it in your office.


55,000 Blood Donors Exposed Online in Red Cross Data Breach (Mashable)
What do you think of the Australian Red Cross’s PR strategy in this crisis communications incident? With data breaches becoming more and more common will donors be more willing to accept the ARC’s claims of accepting responsibility than they might have before similar situations at Target and other businesses in the recent past? Why is safeguarding donor privacy specifically important for the Red Cross to continue its mission?

Cosmetics & Skin Care (and Entertainment… and Music…)
Is Skin-Care the New Designer Collaboration? (Allure)
Why are musicians and other celebrities jumping on the skin care bandwagon (besides money)? Why do celebrities (including Smokey Robinson) need to be lifestyle-brand oriented now for their image? If you are a serious skin care aficionado are you more or less likely to trust a skin care label named after a celebrity? Read More…

Fall 2016 3

This week in class we’ll be discussing one of my favorite topics in PR, corporate social responsibility. And typically it ends up one of students’ favorites, too.

For me, it’s because there are no easy answers when it comes to corporate social responsibility. Most people can agree that doing good is a good thing, but deciding “good for whom” is much harder. Is paying workers in other countries what we’d consider to be incredibly low wages inherently “bad”? What if it helps those workers’ families afford things they never could before? If wages are raised, what if that means low-income Americans can’t buy those products?

I think students enjoy exploring these dilemmas. But also, I think it resonates because studies show Millennials expect businesses to do good. According to a recent Fortune magazine article, “Millennials are more likely than Gen X’Ers and Baby Boomers to say it matters if American businesses give back to society.” Millennials also expect to “shape the giving behavior of brands,” according to Entrepreneur, which creates all sorts of PR opportunities and challenges.

Courtesy of Bookishgifts.com

Courtesy of Bookishgifts.com

By chance, or perhaps because corporate social responsibility issues is really everywhere, many of the insPiRation articles this week touch on it. From alleged “pink washing” by the NFL to a mom of a child with Down Syndrome pressuring OshKosh B’Gosh to make its ads reflect children with disabilities, the news is rife with stories of companies struggling to balance the new triple bottom line: people, planet and profits.

Hyperlate: Elon Musk and Tesla Delay Their Next Big Product Launch (Salon)
What effect, if any, do you think this will have on potential Tesla buyers? How do you think the  the publics (customers, investors) of a traditional car company would respond to a delayed product announcement with no real explanation? How does Elon Musk’s and Tesla’s brands buffet the company’s PR? Can other car company execs learn from Musk’s use of Twitter or would that  ring hollow?

Breast Cancer Victims Should Be Pissed at Getting More Pink Than Green From NFL (Sporting News)
This article is a great example of how tricky corporate social responsibility is. “Pink washing” is a real thing and this article accuses the NFL of it. So how might the NFL PR team respond? Do you think the NFL should change its strategy around breast cancer awareness month? Discuss the awareness-attitude-action continuum in PR and whether the NFL should react to the ongoing “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month” or take a different tack focused on action.
Read More…

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…


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