I’m writing a second blog today to celebrate the Class of 2013. As I finish my third year of full-time teaching at Hofstra, I’ve gotten to know many of my students very well, working closely with them on projects, internships, and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. I’m going to miss my students whom I can now call my friends and colleagues, and I truly hope they stay in touch through the social media platforms that allow us to communicate through time and distance.
A special congratulations to just a few of the graduating students with whom I’ve been closest: Shirley Huyhua, Erin Starke, Vania Andre, Ty Hardamon, Lauren Katz, Jenny Zheng, the two Nicoles (B and C), Chloe Lambros, Jeena Liriano, Kristen Flotteron, Emily Crist, and of course, Sophie Krall and Sarah Travaglini. I’m sure I’m leaving many out, but be assured that I care for every one of you and wish you great happiness in your lives.
Time magazine’s headline last week stated that “Milennials are lazy, entitles narcissists” but added the subhead, “Why they’ll save us all.” Joel Stein’s cover article says, “…milennials are nice…(they are) much more accepting of differences, not just among gays, women and minorities but in everyone.” He concludes, “They’re earnest and optimistic. They embrace the system. They are pragmatic idealists, tinkerers more than dreamers, life hackers…They want new experiences, which are more important than material goods.”
I have met some wonderful, hard-working, caring, determined, and smart students. They are now the Class of 2013. I’m so proud of them and they should be proud of themselves. You did it! You’re a college graduate! Now go out there and rock the Public Relations Nation!
So I guess I’ll tell you all a little bit about me since this is my blog and all…. My name is Andrea (obviously), and I am currently a Junior at Hofstra University. I am a Public Relations major, and a Sociology minor. I’m 20 years young and originally from Westchester, NY. I’m 100% Portuguese and have an identical twin sister so I guess that makes me kind of unique?
I thought it would be cool to make a blog on different holiday sweets and treats, and I’m actually gonna attempt to make all of them (wish me luck)… I’m not really good at this whole “blogging” thing, so don’t judge! Enjoy…
This joyful introduction was written by Andrea Rebello for her blog in my Public Relations Tools class. Her final blog post was sent to me last Sunday. I then saw her Monday morning in my office, where we signed papers for her internship.
I’m convinced that while we’re at the top of the animal kingdom, human beings are not yet fully evolved. We’ve invented such awful weapons to hurt each other, and we use them every day, resulting in horrible, tragic deaths. When such an end is brought to someone as gentle and sweet as Andrea, it makes the loss so much more devastating.
I only knew her as my student. But as a teacher, one gets the sense of a person by sharing the same space, having conversations, and listening to their concerns. Andrea and I talked recently about the PR profession, and we prepared together for her summer internship at a Manhattan agency. Andrea was always willing to listen and learn, and she was so enthusiastic about her future.
I grieve for the Rebello family, especially her parents and Andrea’s twin sister Jessica, whom I have just started to get to know. I hope Jessica will stay on at Hofstra and become the PR professional she and her sister both planned to be. I’ll do everything I possibly can to help Jessica reach her goals. I’ll do it in memory of Andrea and her beautiful smile. Your thoughts?
1) We got word this week that New York State has approved our graduate program in public relations at Hofstra. It was a long, painstaking process, but the web site is up, the brochure is printed, ads will start running, and classes begin this fall.
2) With Commencement coming, many students have reported they’ve already gotten interviews and jobs. My daughter Deanna is also being interviewed as she readies for graduation–with a degree in public relations from another excellent college.
3) My colleagues with the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI), a leading trade and networking organization, will honor me this week with its 2013 Mentor Award at its annual dinner. Getting the award for mentoring is tremendously meaningful to me.
These events are a culmination of my belief in the strength of our industry. Public relations has truly become a respected force in the world of communications. I worked in PR for 27 years before coming to Hofstra. Now I have students who pay good money to listen to my accumulated “wisdom,” but the chats outside the classroom where we share ideas, navigate internships, discuss concerns, and examine future plans are, for me, truly the prize at the bottom of the box.
A mentor doesn’t sit and tell a less experienced person what to do; a mentor tries to help the mentee look at all sides of a situation, and then lets the mentee take it from there. I suggest to my students that in PR, networking is one of the fundamentals of success. So is good writing. And problem solving. And a catalog of general knowledge that grows through curiosity.
This exceptional time will be bittersweet for me, however, because I’ll have to say goodbye and good luck to a lot of students I’ve grown to like and really care about. I wish them all well. I hope they stay in touch. And I hope they know how much their future happiness and success means to me. Your thoughts?
“What matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing: to listen to you. To hear what you need to make your life more beautiful.” So goes the spot now running for JCPenney, which ends by asking consumers to “come back,” and showing the hashtag #JCPListens.
If you haven’t followed JCPenney’s recent saga, simply put, the retailer lost a third of its customers and $4.3 billion in sales last year after changing its approach to store design, and virtually eliminating discounts and coupons. CEO Ron Johnson was fired, and now the company is trying to regain its footing.
Commercials in which a company apologizes is uncommon but not unprecedented. This is called public relations advertising: commercials that don’t sell the product but instead try to persuade an audience to think better of the firm. BP has done a lot of this, addressing its disastrous Gulf oil spill, with spots that ran soon after the crisis and are now running to convince us that they are sorry for their sins. Dominos went on TV and online in late 2009 to admit to making an inferior product and promising to sell us new and improved pizza.
While PR advertising has been around for a long time, our current age of transparency (mainly brought to you courtesy of social media) combined with a push towards more corporate social responsibility (CSR), has encouraged companies with very public problems to be up-front and apologetic. The challenge to this approach is believability. Does the audience accept these displays of regrets and promises, or is public perception of the company so damaged that no amount of such messaging will change minds?
This is certainly the problem with BP’s slick PR commercials (no bad pun intended). BP’s credibility is badly hurt and its spots are not always well-received. It’s too early to tell how effective JCPenney’s ads will be, but I think it’s smart that they’re doing them. We seem to like when big companies admit and apologize for their mistakes. But how long will it take until we actually forgive them? Your thoughts?
The millennial “Girls” in HBO’s series are confused young adults. And like every generation, millennials have a mixed reputation. They’re often viewed as feeling entitled to success; they’re mediocre writers with short attention spans and poor critical thinking skills. They’ve been coddled by “umbrella” parents and constantly need to have their hands held.
Steve Earl of PR Week believes the 21-25 year old employee has to overcome the millennials’ reputation for feeling entitled. In his blog post ”On PR First Job Tips and Millennials,” he wrote, “First and foremost it is you that have to make career development happen, not your employer. If you’re not driven to succeed, expect to spin your wheels for a long time. It’s a two-way street, so don’t sit there bitching… Be ever-keen, eager to take on more responsibility and ever-ready to help others out.”
On the other hand, in a PR Week article, ”Stop Bashing Millennials, Especially in PR,” Scott Signore wrote that older generations shouldn’t look down on the new generation of employees. “It’s become something of a sport for social media and business types to beat up on the youngsters joining the ranks of PR: They’re too self-absorbed…,” he wrote. “…They don’t think long-term. They feel entitled…I say knock it off with the youth-bashing, folks.” He goes on to say, “…the younger people in our ranks continually challenge our managers, and me, to be open-minded and fluid in our approach to public relations and social media. They help keep us fresh, and a step ahead of our more complacent peers.”
While the PR industry is experiencing faster-than-average growth, there are many new graduates competing for a limited number of jobs. Young people have to find ways to present themselves as unique and stronger than their competition. Some will struggle to overcome their shortcomings while others are creatively brilliant and driven to succeed. But isn’t that true of every generation? So my note to PR’s next generation: Don’t let us baby boomers upset you; you have so much to offer. But you’ll have to prove it, every day. Your thoughts?
I’m not going to write about this very tragic week. Our thoughts are with Boston and Texas whose victims’ awful destiny was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I’d like to write about more a life-affirming kind of destiny: the aspirations of my students. Many are anxious about the next few weeks, because these are the weeks when college will end and they’ll try to find employment in their chosen field of public relations. Some are already getting interviews and jobs; most are getting the process started. As I speak with them, I find myself thinking about clichés and maxims we often hear. A few I like are worth examining:
“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” TRUE. While PR often features long hours, frustrating clients and unfriendly reporters, you’ll rarely have a bad day when you like your job. I’ve loved almost every minute of my PR career.
“It’s not what you know, but who you know.” TRUE…and FALSE. Although it really helps to have connections and to network like crazy, you’re not getting a PR job without knowing what you’re doing–and possessing a degree.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” TRUE…and FALSE…and my favorite maxim. John Lennon’s lyrics acknowledge that however much you plan, events take different, both positive and negative, turns. But I believe you should always point yourself in a direction and stick to it as best you can. Life and career are tough boats to steer.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” TRUE, again.
“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze,” said Forrest Gump, “but I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.” Your thoughts?
Score one for Obama’s PR team.
Alongside the national debate on gun control is a public relations war being waged on both sides. I’ve written that while the National Rifle Association’s messaging appeals to its base, the organization risks losing support among the less radical gun rights supporters. Proponents of new gun control laws have used parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims in their efforts, as did President Obama. For the first time in his presidency, he turned over his weekly address to Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was one of the 20 children killed in Newtown, Connecticut last December.
According to the Washington Post, “Wheeler’s remarks are a heart-wrenching capstone to a week of intense lobbying in Washington by parents of children slaughtered at Sandy Hook… After Obama issued a forceful call for swift action during a campaign-style rally in Connecticut on Monday, he brought about a dozen Sandy Hook parents with him to Washington aboard Air Force One. The parents spent the week meeting personally with senators to lobby them to support stricter gun laws…”
We know how essential the right spokesperson can be when endeavoring to influence opinion. For example, BP CEO Tony (“I’d like my life back“) Heyward handled things poorly during the Gulf oil spill crisis, and questions of “good spokesmanship” were raised when CEO Greg Creed defended Taco Bell’s recipe in 2011. But no matter which side of the gun issue you’re on, I don’t think you can find a more powerful spokesperson than the mother of a murdered child.
If you’re alarmed that these people are being used, don’t be. They have become willing representatives of the 100,000 Americans murdered or injured each year by guns. Gun control proponents are very smart to appropriately use their most powerful public relations weapon–in this case, the Sandy Hook parents–if they’re going to have any chance of seeing changes in the nation’s gun laws.
The right representative is essential when working to shape opinions. Francine Wheeler was, indeed, an emotional spokesperson–and the right one for this cause. Your thoughts?
I’ve had many of my students read and review What Were They Thinking?: Crisis Communication — the Good, the Bad, and the Totally Clueless, a book written by Steve Adubato, Ph.D. It’s a fabulous collection of 22 brief and significant case studies on how organizations and individuals have failed (or have sometimes been successful) at dealing with their very public crises. From the Duke University ”rape” case to FEMA and Katrina to the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol scare, WWTT is as good a study on crisis PR as any textbook I’ve seen. I’ve recommended this book here before.
However, WWTT was published in 2008 and so many significant PR debacles have happened since. In fact, as I was watching the scandal at Rutgers University unfold this week, I began to jot down a list of such events; there are more than enough new case studies to fill a second edition.
From the athletics world, in addition to Rutgers’ abusive basketball coach we had Tiger Woods’ fall from grace, Lance Armstrong’s greater fall from grace, and the horrific sex crimes at Penn State. From politics there were Congressman Anthony Weiner’s naked tweets, Governor Mark Sanford’s mysterious ”disappearance” and Congressman Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” theory. From business we saw Toyota fixing its brakes, Carnival Cruise lines unable to fix its boats, and BP’s CEO telling a reporter how he “wants his life back.” And from Hollywood: Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Lindsey Lohan, Justin Beiber and so many others have had very public meltdowns that have sullied their images and threatened their careers.
And that’s just to name a few. So get crackin’, Dr. Adubato! Another PR crisis book is waiting to be written and you’ve got lots of material to work with. I’ll leave it to my readers to review my initial list and suggest other subject matter for your chapters. OK, readers… your thoughts?
This past week, Tiger Woods reclaimed his standing at the top of the golf world by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. It was December 2009 when we learned about his extramarital affairs, an admission resulting in the loss of lucrative endorsement deals, the suspension of his golfing career, and the end of his marriage and his squeeky-clean reputation. He repeatedly apologized for his actions, went through therapy and began to compete again. Two years ago Woods hit rock-bottom, ranked 58th in the world.
So after re-taking the number one position, Nike–which has retained its relationship with Tiger Woods throughout his crises–ran an ad on Facebook and Twitter that declared: “Winning Takes Care Of Everything.” But some media folks didn’t care for the message. My good friend and mentor Bert Cunningham pointed to the lead sentence in a New York Post sports section story on the ad which read: “Tiger Woods and Nike opened themselves up to an industrialized can of social media whoop-ass…”. Bert noted, “Interesting how Tiger was the comeback kid on all the sports news Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon he was a polarizing figure again.” Attention to the ad and its subsequent controversy quickly spread throughout all the major–and minor–media outlets. The underlying message might as well have been, “We can forget the mess you left behind now that you’re on top of the game again!”
Was Nike’s ad an error in judgement? Were any of the negative public relations ramifications considered by Nike or Tiger Woods? Or is this a manufactured controversy; maybe the ad ran just to create the hype and buzz. If this was the case, it worked. To my knowledge, no one in either camp has commented on the ad, so clearly neither thought there was a need for damage control. Perhaps Woods and Nike got what they wanted out of this little “controversy.” Your thoughts?
In the fall of 2012 I repeated a survey of Long Island’s nonprofit organizations that I had done in 2011. The survey’s purpose was to learn how nonprofits are handling public relations duties and what kind of resources they were devoting to PR. The results of the first survey were not surprising, and put numbers to what public relations practitioners have anecdotally known all along: nonprofits struggle to get their messages out because they don’t have the budgets to fully engage trained, professional PR staff or consultants. The numbers were pretty disheartening.
There’s better news this year. Although their plans are modest, the same nonprofit organizations say they will devote more staff and resources to public relations efforts in 2013. Of 125 respondents answering the recent survey, 17% said they were “probably” or “definitely” more likely to increase their public relations staffs within the next 12 months, compared to just over 11% who said the same in the survey a year ago. The number of nonprofits stating they would not hire PR people this year decreased by 10%.
And while in 2011 the overwhelming majority of respondents (87%) said they would not increase their public relations budget, that number dropped to 80% in the 2012 survey, a minor but encouraging improvement. One significant increase noted in the survey was the amount of training PR staff, volunteers and interns receive from the nonprofit organizations. More than half (52%) of the respondents said they provide training, up from only 25% in last year’s survey. According to the new survey, 25% of Long Island’s nonprofits have at least one full-time staff member devoted to public relations, with most PR functions being conducted by part-time staff, volunteers and interns.
Maybe these better numbers are the result of an improving economy. And while there’s no reason to celebrate these upticks just yet, it’s good to see some positive changes, however slight. They mean better messaging for nonprofits, hopefully leading to improved success in fulfilling their important missions. It could also possibly mean more jobs for public relations professionals — and especially for new and recent college graduates. Your thoughts?
P.S. Many thanks to Hofstra students Vania Andre, Sophie Krall, Abby Littleton and Xavier Lofton for their help with the survey.