Advice for Future J452ers

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Image via The Daily Mail

So I really wanted to talk about this Target Photoshop fail and the message it sends to young girls, but as this is my last blog post of the term I decided to go another route. I wanted to offer some advice for future J452 bloggers:

1) Keep up on your blog posts. Because playing catch-up all term is not the bees knees.

2) Linky loves are meant to inspire, not straightjacket you. Use them as a starting point but allow for your own creativity during the writing process.

3) Share some insight, don’t merely summarize. Summarizing articles that are already out there without adding any of your own advice or insight is SO. BORING. Critique or commend – this isn’t an elementary school book report (aka plot synopsis).

4) Try your best to stay on topic. I struggled with this a lot throughout the term. I had all these ideas and kept crafting PR related blog posts, and then week 8 rolled around and I realized that hardly any of my posts related to crisis communication and the PR efforts surrounding these events. Whoops.

5) Break the rules IF it makes sense to. The grammar police of the blogosphere aren’t going to hunt you down for using a sentence fragment. In fact, blogs can read more like conversations, but make sure you have a purpose for breaking the rules. Don’t have shitty spelling, misused punctuation and poor grammar just because you were too lazy to edit.

6) Produce quality work. I know, it can be tempting to just slap something together and throw it up on your blog last minute. But realize that this isn’t just a class assignment that will disappear when your teacher returns it to you with a grade. This, like anything else you post on the Internet, is a representation of yourself.

And finally, perhaps most importantly:

7) Showcase your personality. You’re building your personal brand, so let your readers get a taste of who you are.

Special thanks to the small crowd that cared enough to keep up on my posts (and by “small crowd” I mean you, mom and dad). I’ve definitely learned a thing or two during this process, and you better believe I’ll be back! Until next time, my friends.

TTFN, ta-ta for now!

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A College Survival Guide, Crafted By Yours Truly

On top of a very heavy credit load, I have found a way to balance my position as an Account Executive for Allen Hall Public Relations, my Peer Health Educator Internship and a functional social life. Oh, and did I mention I have to write and defend a thesis before graduation?

I know I’m not alone in this battle, but I sometimes wonder how I (and we) manage to get everything done and stay on top of it all. Earlier this year, Heather Huhman shared 5 tips for balancing two internships at once. I was inspired to craft a few of my own tips, but I figured I’d broaden the scope.

As someone who has had a very full schedule throughout my college career, I thought I would share with you some insight from my very own survival guide. Here’s a few things I’ve learned along this journey, some tips to survive and thrive, if you will:

Keep open communication. Internship coordinators, team leaders, and fellow group project members understand that you have multiple commitments. Just be sure to be open with them about what you have going on.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. This is something I oftentimes struggle with: when people ask for a favor or support on a project, I almost always say yes. Usually without thinking it through. I oftentimes end up feeling overwhelmed as a result, so I’m learning how to politely decline. Be okay with saying no from time to time because you just can’t do everything.

Leading off of the one above, be up front about your availability. Don’t say yes and commit just to cancel. Of course things come up, but if you’re constantly bailing at the last minute on group meetings or internship events, it can send a poor message about your commitment to the project.

Take a mental health day. If taking a day off is essential for your sanity, do it. This is totally okay in my book, and I would highly recommend it. Allow your brain a day to rest, relax and renew, and tackle your to-do list tomorrow.

Be lenient with scheduling for group projects. We all know or have had that group member who is constantly making excuses for why he or she can’t meet. Don’t be that guy! 6:00 hot yoga may be a part of your usual daily routine, but please try to be flexible. If that’s the best time for six other group members, maybe be open to the 8:00 session? Just a thought.

If you need to, go to the library on Saturday. As much as I resent spending my “free time” (oh, the irony) among dusty books, it’s worth it in the long run. Before this year, I don’t think I even glanced at a homework assignment between the beginning of my weekend and Sunday afternoon. And this usually resulted in a terrible and dysfunctional relationship with Sunday: I would experience every emotion from anger to despair at the endless to-do list in front of me before spending a miserable day (and sometimes night) in the lib. Spread your workload out into Saturday, and give yourself some time to embrace Lazy Sunday for a few hours.

Don’t neglect your friendships. This may seem like a silly one, and a perhaps a bit out of place, but I take my social life very seriously. THESE ARE THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, PEOPLE! Nurture your relationships, and allow yourself to have a good time. Don’t get so bogged down that you neglect your social life. You (and your friends) are making memories!

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Making memories a priority

Do you have any more college survival guide tips? Please share them below.

Unequal Representation at the Academy Awards

Before this year, I had never watched the Oscars from start to finish. With the exception of the musical performances (I love me some Pharrell), award shows just really aren’t my thing. I’ve never paid any particular attention to who was nominated and who won, but my experience in my Gender, Media and Diversity class (and perhaps partially influenced by the extra credit opportunity on the table) sparked my interest. I decided to watch this awards show with a critical eye geared towards the representation of gender and diversity amongst nominees and winners.

There’s really no other way to say this: there were a hell of a lot of white people being nominated, and the crowd was overwhelmingly white. So I decided to do some digging, and research the history of the event. I wanted to find out who had been winning.

The answer? White people were winning Oscars, particularly white males (at least when they aren’t limited by a category prefaced with the Actress label).

To what extent? Here’s some interesting stuff I stumbled across:

In 1954, 25 years after the first Academy Awards, Dorothy Dandridge was the first African American female to be nominated for Best Actress. It would be nearly 50 years before an African American would win Best Actress.

In 2001, Halle Berry was recognized for her role in Monster’s Ball and took home an Oscar for Best Actress. To date, Berry is the only black woman to win an Oscar in this category.

In this same year, Denzel Washington won Best Actor for his role in Training Day, the first time that two black performers won leading role Oscars in the same year. To date, four African American men have won Best Actor.

Out of the 20 nominees that represented Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the 86th Annual Academy Awards, only three were African American.

Kathryn Bigelow has been the only female director to win an Oscar. Female directors are often denied the same opportunities as their male counterparts. In fact, overall employment opportunities for men far outweigh women in the film industry. According to a report on women in the film industry, women comprised only 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors in the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2012. Yet there is a plethora of women that specialize in these categories!

This year, during the 86th Annual Academy Awards, Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave.  She was the only woman of color among the five nominees in this category, and the only African American winner among Best Actor and Actress and Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Side note: Am I the only one who gets a little bit irked by the separate categories for actor and actress? I feel like it insinuates something about the unlikelihood of a female winning against a male… But that’s another topic for a different day.

While there is much work to be done before we see equal representation, it does seem as if we are making progress. Since 2010, three of the five winners for Best Supporting Actress have been African American females. But I would like to see another win in Best Actress to stand alongside Halle Berry. In fact, I would like to see a much more diverse set of nominees and winners, and am hopeful that we can achieve equal representation not only at the Oscar’s, but in film opportunities and beyond as well.

For additional information, visit  The Oscars Historical Timeline. Otherwise, enjoy my favorite part of this years show:

Body Language: Communicating with Your Audience and Yourself

As we round the corner into week 9 (yikes!), multiple professors have been dedicating significant time to the do’s and don’ts for our looming final presentations.

Elisha Hartwig of Mashable compiled a list of 15 TED talks that will change your life, which includes my personal favorite at #5: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy.

We are told countless times throughout our lives about the importance of body language, and the message that non-verbal communication sends: whether you are engaged, interested, and confident (or if you really aren’t) can be judged pretty accurately by how you carry yourself.

But in this TED talk, Cuddy details the importance of body language not just in fooling your audience into believing you are confident, but tricking your own body as well. Literally by opening yourself up and hitting a few “power poses” you can trick your body into feeling a sense of calm and increase self-confidence. “Fake it til you make it” seems pretty fitting, no?

This past summer, I had an amazing opportunity to participate in the Fred Meyer Summer Internship Program with 20 other college students from the PNW. After spending a couple months in the Marketing Department of Fred Meyer Jewelers, my experience led to a formal presentation in front of a very large crowd of Fred Meyer employees: I had 5 minutes to convince a conference room full of people about the significance of my contribution to the company. No biggie.

No biggie? HUGE biggie. This was certainly an awesome and unique opportunity, but it was also super intimidating and terrifying. So I wanted to be sure that I did an excellent job.

During our rehearsal, the internship coordinator had us watch Cuddy’s TED Talk. And she actually made us strike a “power pose” ( that was incredibly awkward, I might add) for several minutes before the big event. My fellow interns and I felt ridiculous. But our presentations went well, and we all felt pretty good about our performance. Did these power poses really have an impact? Amy Cuddy would say so.

As someone who gets butterflies regardless of how prepared I feel, anything helps. So if standing big, strong and confident for a couple minutes can physiologically trick my brain out of being nervous? I’m all over it.

Side note: Jessica’s daily affirmation works well for improving self-confidence too. Plus she’s adorable.

 

Can I Have Your Number? A Sexual Health Infographic and Tips for Creating Your Own

So I feel like I’ve been veering a bit off topic in several of my blog posts, so to all of you diehard crisis-communicators, I am deeply apologetic. And allow me to warn you in advance: this next one has literally nothing to do with crisis comm. But I think it has some value, and you may enjoy it anyways.

For my Stategic PR Communication class, Kelli Matthews had us design an infographic about something we are passionate about (side note: if you don’t already follow her blog, you probably should). The natural choice was sex.

But not in the way you’re thinking! For the past 2 years, I have worked as a Sexual Health Peer Health Educator, and I have come to learn a few things regarding the importance of healthy communication, relationships and safe sex. And while I’m not an expert in design, I figured I’d offer up a few infographic pointers (even if you aren’t a design genius either):

Disclaimer: these are for the beginners. Like me!

Pick a color scheme. Basically, make sure the colors you use look good together, and simultaneously have enough contrast. Dark blue writing on a black background is tough on the eyes.

Maintain balance. Pay attention to layout and what you are trying to emphasize. Where does each piece lie in relation to everything else on the page?

Break it up into sections. Give the eyes a road map to follow for where you want them to go.

Avoid design overkill. Especially if you are using a tool such as Piktochart, it can be easy to get carried away with the multitude of icons, fonts and graphics available. Think simple.

Embrace white space. Don’t “smush” everything together. Allow breathing room for each individual component.

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So You Landed the Job. Now What?

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Image by Jon Seidman via Flickr

Earlier this week I shared some tips from Colleen Lacter on how to shine in an interview.  So let’s say you followed her advice and sailed through the interview process. What if they determine you’re awesome and the perfect fit? What comes next?

If you’re at all like me, actually landing the job gives you some anxiety. Unlike most normal people who are probably stoked to find out that they’re employed, my excitement is generally short-lived – my worrisome questions concerning “what’s next?” begin to set in almost instantaneously. “First day jitters” doesn’t even begin to describe the amount of dread I feel in new situations.

But there’s hope. After you excel in the interview and they inevitably hire you, here are three quick tips from Lacter for after you land the job:

Keep your eyes and ears out there. Find something interesting in the industry and offer a point of view as to why it does or doesn’t work.

Complete every project and task with excellence. Show off your work ethic and showcase your talent.

If you’re unclear, ask clarifying questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question.

If you haven’t already determined, I’m pretty much slightly stressed 24/7, and the idea of entering a new workplace and embarking on my career path is terrifying. Luckily, Lacter put a few of my worries to rest. None of the aforementioned suggestions for success are unattainable or particularly difficult to demonstrate.

So remember that no one expects you to be an expert on your first day, and just do the best you can. And as I continue to receive helpful tips and advice from industry professionals, I’ll share them with you, and hopefully alleviate a few of my own worries along the way.

How to Shine in an Interview

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Zero anxiety and so much sass post high school graduation. What a different time

Only three months stand between the SOJC ‘14 graduates and the real world. I’m supposed to be one of them. Fear and anxiety are beginning to set in as I consider what the hell I want to do after graduation, and how I’m going to land an interview and, more importantly, a job. I’m even considering pushing back my own graduation date to pursue further educational opportunities in order to buy myself some time. How am I supposed to approach this whole “life after college” thing? Qué miedo.

Last week, Colleen Lacter, who is responsible for Symantec’s global communications, came and shared some excellent insight with the teams of Allen Hall Public Relations. Needless to say, I think that her advice was invaluable and helped ease a little of the anxiety with regards to the post-grad interview process.

Here are a few of Lacter’s tips on how to stand out in an interview:

Do your homework. Make sure you know about the company, research who the biggest clients are, and familiarize yourself with recent campaigns.

Expect to spend about 4-8 hours researching for each interview. The questions you ask them are as important as the questions they ask you. You can’t ask good questions if you haven’t done that essential preliminary research into the company or agency, so come prepared with a list of thoughtful questions.

Know where they stand with social media. Take a peak at the company Facebook page(s) and Twitter accounts of executives, and look at how they are (or aren’t) utilizing these media platforms.  Analyze the type of content they post and which platforms they use, and read what has been written about them. Dig deep.

Ask what account you will be working on. This showcases your passion, and can provide you with the opportunity to evaluate whether or not your personal values align with the project.  For example, if working on a campaign for Big Tobacco conflicts with your moral compass, then learn how to pass. Never compromise your own personal ethics.

Doing preliminary research before an interview always seemed obvious to me, but I never really thought about why it is so important. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the company or agency shows initiative and interest, and can help set you apart from all the other qualified candidates. Showcase your eagerness, passion and interest for public relations, and knock ‘em dead at your next interview.

How Howard Bragman Helped Michael Sam

I look forward to the day that a professional athlete, celebrity or famous figure comes out and it doesn’t make major news. Or cause certain individuals to question their admiration of the celebrity based on his or her sexual preference. But as this is a current “issue” that draws a lot of interest and attention of the public, it is no surprise that University of Missouri senior defensive lineman Michael Sam made major news when he came out this past week.

When any celebrity comes out, there is a lot of publicity surrounding it. And you can bet that any publicity team carefully plans out how the story will break, when this will occur, and where it will first hit the stands. I’m interested in discussing the PR efforts surrounding Sam’s plan to come out to the public.

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Photo by Brandon Wade via The New York Times

Howard Bragman, founder and chairman of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations, prepared and supported Sam for the announcement, and shared with PRWeek a little insight into his efforts. 

First of all, Bragman went beyond the media realm and first focused on the feelings of his client. In preparation for the interviews that would follow, Bragman arranged a party for Sam, which featured a guest list of several other gay athletes. This party offered a support system for Sam during this monumental time in his life.

Bragman knew his audience, and meticulously planned out who he was going to share the story with. He did his research, and also prepared his client to combat potentially negative questions and commentary. Bragman utilized his relationships with the media to decide who would be the best candidate to break the story. He wanted to ensure that these communication channels were well-versed in the topic and had previous experience with coming out stories of other gay and lesbian athletes. Additionally, Bragman had special consideration of the LGBT community, and gave a behind-the-scenes exclusive to Outsports.com, “the most important gay website” according to Bragman.

But the best part?  This piece of gold:

What I wanted to happen was to let Michael Sam tell his story in his words on his terms and on his timetable.

Beautiful. Commendable. Right on point. Bragman recognized that this was not about him. Rather than roll with the plethora of follow-up interview and talk show requests that began flooding in, he allowed Sam to breathe.

I think that sometimes, in public relations (and in life), we can forget that the main focus is our client. We may jump to do what we think is best – or what may be the best for our own self interest – rather than truly listening. And while offering PR advice may be your specialty, it is extremely important to truly listen to the client’s wants and needs.

Apologizing During Crises: Four More Reasons Why You Should Do It (and Mean It)

Kipp Lanham, Senior Account Executive at Media Communication Strategies Inc., gave four reasons why a company in crisis would benefit from an apology:

1)    A company is not too big to fail.

2)    Throwing money at a problem is not enough.

3)    You’re on the media’s radar.

4)    Making your mess your message.

Because I’ve already stressed my stance on apologies (do it and mean it), I’ve decided to slightly shift the approach and offer you four reasons why not apologizing is detrimental to your image. Gotta love scare tactics.

As a 22 year old journalism student, I have a limited amount of work experience. So let me remind you that I am NOT an expert with years of experience under my belt, and I’m going to tie these tips to the company called My Life. As I mentioned in my post Lessons Learned in High School and the Importance of Honesty, the most damaging hit to my trust bank was when I failed to apologize; I crashed my Jeep in a snowstorm, and rather than fess up and hold myself accountable, I tried to hide behind a sheet of lies.

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17 year old me finally taking responsibility.  Sadly, the damage was much worse in-person

So here are four reasons why not apologizing can be tough to bounce back from (and how it relates to my own crisis communication fail):

1) No company is too big to fail. Reputation is key to success, and a sincere apology can work wonders in terms of damage control. If you make a mistake, work towards mending it with a genuine apology. Otherwise, the damage may become irreparable.

My Life: Even though I had spent nearly two decades proving my integrity to my parents, it took a single incident combined with my choice in how to respond to destroy the trust that I had earned.

 2) Money is not the answer. Be careful about the response efforts you choose to employ. Rather than offer a faux-peace offering in the form of monetary compensation, you need to show true remorse and empathy, and demonstrate how you are working to ensure that this never happens again.

My Life: I had to take action and prove to my parents that an integrity-slip such as this one would not happen again. Easier said than done.

3) The media can rip you apart. People are poised for your reaction. So why not be open with your apology, share your side and handle the situation with graceful accountability. You’re going to be highlighted, critiqued and criticized for your mistake over and over again, unless you give journalists something else to write about.  Help them supplement the content with an apology.

My Life: Okay, so maybe the media wasn’t jumping to write about little-old-me, but my parents were certainly sharing the story. And I think they would have illustrated me in a more positive light if I had been forthright with my apology.

 4) You lose trust from the trust bank. When you screw up – which will inevitably happen at some point in this thing called life – your image and reputation take a hit. However, the sum of funds extracted from your trust bank will be significantly heftier if you attempt to weasel your way out of holding yourself accountable.

My Life: It wasn’t until I owned up to my mistake that it began to haunt me less and less.

There are probably a million reasons why not apologizing can be detrimental to your company, brand or image, and I’ve only shared four with you here. So please share any important ones that I might have missed!

#AmericaIsBeautiful, and so was this commercial

It’s been a week since Super Bowl Sunday. And if you’re at all like me (a.k.a not so big on the NFL), the primary reason you tuned in was for the overly-anticipated and outrageously-priced commercials. Even though they released them early, I refused to watch them beforehand and admit that the only reason I was at a SBS party was for the snacks.

Aside from Budweiser’s Puppy Love – which really tugged at the strings– my favorite commercial was Coca-Cola’s It’s Beautiful. For one minute, “America the Beautiful” played in multiple languages as scenes from American life rolled across the screen.

I wouldn’t consider myself to be particularly patriotic, but it made my heart smile and brought up a few warm and fuzzy feelings. Coca-Cola got it right. The Super Bowl, such a central event, day and idea of America, was finally acknowledging the reality of our country. I thought it was a beautiful representation of America that honored diversity with a poetic message of unity.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m a Coca-Cola fiend and will love this refreshing beverage until the day that I die. But beliefs that coke is the perfect ratio of bubbly to sweet aside, I thought this commercial was a winner. And I was not alone. There were no complaints from the audience I watched with, and a plethora of viewers across the nation began sharing their love for this commercial.

But not everyone had the same positive reaction. In fact, Twitter blew up with comments from those who were outraged. Jenna Mullins highlighted some of the backlash from the words of unhappy Twitter users such as this:

@tylerwyckoff24: Nice to see that coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language. Way to go coke. You can leave America.

Um…. Excuse me? Supposedly we have made leaps and bounds towards “progress”. But if we’re so forward-thinking and accepting, how could a hashtag such as #SpeakAmerican emerge as a result of this commercial and start trending with so much hatred? We have come to accept a certain view of America that is composed of the white, heterosexual, English speaking citizen. But this is a sad, oppressive and limiting way to view our society.

But rather than focus on the negativity that stemmed from this commercial, I want to highlight the beauty of it. While I may feel ashamed, disappointed or disgusted in the reactions that dubbed this commercial as un-American or unpatriotic, I can be proud that a corporation like Cheerios finally featured an interracial couple, or that Coca-Cola highlighted the diversity that makes this country beautiful in its Super Bowl slot. Baby steps.

I am happy that these companies are pushing the boundaries. And if you have a problem with diversity, I suggest that you step out from under the rock you’ve been living under and come to appreciate the fact that #AmericaIsBeautiful – not just White America.