PeRforming for causes


Lady Gaga LGBT

Lady Gaga championing LGBT rights

Which music celebrities do you admire? The talented ones? The acts that have been around for years? The artists with multiple hits? Or struggling musicians who never “sold out?”

In my summer class, “Pop, Rock and Public Relations,” our discussions include some of the celebrities I admire most including those who’ve used their fame to bring attention to a cause, fight a disease, or help the less fortunate. There are countless of current examples: Lady Gaga highlights LGBT issues, Taylor Swift fights bullying and child abuse, and Bono raises political and environmental consciousness. These are just three of the hundreds of causes and celebrities who support them. Some may accuse them of doing so just to enhance their images; I say “so what?”

Celebrity concerts including “Live Aid,” “Farm Aid,” “The Concert for 9/11,” “12-12-12 The Concert for Sandy Relief” have raised millions of dollars. But this wasn’t always the case. Musicians didn’t noticeably begin to speak out until the 1960s when they started to take very public stances on civil rights and the Vietnam war. Musicians’ activism took a different turn when former Beatle George Harrison used his mega-fame to raise money for those less fortunate. Just a year after the Fab Four’s 1970 break-up, Harrison was approached by his musical mentor Ravi Shankar who asked for his help to raise funds for millions of starving refugees in East Pakistan. He staged the “Concert for Bangladesh,” two performances at Madison Square Garden featuring music superstars ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, and other rock stars. The event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and became a model for future fundraisers featuring music’s biggest stars.

It’s admirable when celebrities use their stardom and perform on behalf of worthy causes. They understand the power of their fame and capitalize on it to truly help people. And if they’re sometimes accused of exploiting others’ tragedy for public relations purposes, I suggest it doesn’t matter if their efforts can truly make a difference to people, creatures and a planet in need. Your thoughts?

 

Lessons from a PRo


Terry Lynam and me

Terry Lynam was presented with the PRPLI Lifetime Achievement Award by yours truly

Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI), a local group of communication practitioners, has recognized PR excellence with its Jack Retalliata Lifetime Achievement Award for more than a quarter century. This year’s award was presented on May 10 to Terry Lynam, senior vice president and chief public relations officer at Northwell Health.

Several of my students attended the PRPLI Awards Dinner last week and were wowed by Terry’s “thank you” remarks. With his permission, I’m sharing some of his PR lessons here:

“Like many PR people, I’ve always felt more comfortable working behind the scenes, trying to get recognition for others. We all know from personal experience that when PR people are taking center stage, there’s usually a crisis brewing. When it comes to managing an organization’s reputation, we as communications professionals play an instrumental role in helping our employers or clients build and maintain credibility, and earn and sustain consumer trust…The key is to prepare and position yourself and your organization for the long haul. The true test of success is consistency.

“It’s a constant, long-term challenge – and we all know how difficult a job it can be and how quickly we can get knocked off track, most of the time by things that are out of our control.

“As someone who has been in the business for 37 years, the credo that I have tried to live by is to be honest with people and treat everybody with respect, regardless of where they are on the food chain. Your reputation within any organization is built from the bottom-up, as well as from the top-down.

“Whether it’s marketing, PR or journalism, communications is a noble and incredibly important profession. We should all be proud.”

Also that night, Hofstra PR alumnus Peter Guaraldi, a communications specialist for Suffolk County, was given PRPLI’s Rising Star Award. Receiving PRPLI student scholarships were Hofstra’s Briana Cunningham and Saralynn Kupperberg. As several other PR and media pros were lauded, we all great took pride in our colleagues–and our profession.

P.S.: A very sincere congratulations today to the future PR pros from the Class of 2016! Our best wishes for happiness will always be with you. Your thoughts?

InsPiRation, every day


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At the Hofstra Gala with Class of 2016’s (l.to r.) Cass Lang, Jordan Heiden and Mollie Wichtel.

There’s no greater honor for a teacher than to be recognized by his or her students. So when I was named 2016 Teacher of the Year at Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication last week, I couldn’t have felt more gratified, humbled and joyful knowing my students saw fit to give me an award.

But it’s my students who deserve the accolades.  They inspire me every day.  Their dedication to learning and desire to succeed fills me with the motivation to be the best I can be as an educator. As another semester ends, I say goodbye to our graduates feeling good about the work my colleagues and I do to prepare the next group of future public relations professionals.

This year I’ve been inspired by seniors and grad students including Lauren, who wrote and presented a significant research paper on #blacklivesmatter; Ashley, who thoroughly researched and reported on PR ethics; and Samantha, who studied the state of public relations agencies in Estonia where she lived for a semester. Their efforts rivaled the best of any academic work.

I’ve watched how Nathalie, whose charisma and unparalleled leadership of Hofstra’s PRSSA Chapter worked to build PRSSA into a powerhouse campus club, and helped inspire fellow students Saralynn, Kristin, Lauren, Tara, Arielle, Briana, Jasmine, and others to run dozens of programs and events. Together, they were selected to host what was a highly successful regional conference.

I’ve been inspired by international students who left their homes and moved thousands of miles to be educated in the United States. Significantly challenged by language and culture, they’ve succeeded through their determination to earn a college degree.

I’ve also been inspired by my graduate assistant Jessica and student aide Emily. They’ve handled several special PR projects this year with competence and enthusiasm.

I wish I could name every student who’s inspired me because as my sixth year at Hofstra ends, I’ve never been happier and more excited to be in a classroom. I’ll miss our graduates terribly but look forward to another year of inspiration. Your thoughts?

 

 

Another chaPteR


VW

(YouTube graphic)

Last week, Public Relations Nation focused on PR’s history as expressed in the new timeline produced by the Museum of Public Relations and Hofstra University. PR history is being written all the time, especially chapters focused on crisis communication. Each time a company, individual or institution gets into trouble, another case study develops for PR students and, later, historians to analyze. Dozens of publications and textbooks examine crisis PR, among them Eric Dezenhall’s “Damage Control” and Steve Adubato’s “What Were They Thinking?”

So indeed, what were they thinking at Volkswagen when its leadership made a deliberate decision to deceive consumers and regulators all over the world? In this week’s New York Times, “Explaining Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal” tells us how “Volkswagen has admitted that 11 million of its vehicles were equipped with software that was used to cheat on emissions tests. The company is now contending with the fallout.” The article goes on to describe that “Volkswagen has recently reported record losses, as the company’s value has plummeted since the scandal broke…Internally, the company has shaken up its leadership. Its chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, as well as the head of its American operations have stepped down, and the company suspended several high-ranking executives. Volkswagen has also been facing mounting legal battles (and) regulators across the globe have been conducting their own investigations.”

VW began its damage control with apologies, running an ad last November saying, “We’re working to make things right.” Executive Herbert Diess wrote in January, “We disappointed our customers and the American people, for which I am truly sorry…We at Volkswagen are disappointed that this could happen within the company we love. I assure you we are doing everything we can to make things right.” CEO Matthias Müller told the press last week that he “personally apologize(d) to President Obama for our behavior.”

It’s fascinating to see VW struggle to fix its cars, its company and its image as this scandal unfolds. It’s another chapter for the PR history books and it’s being written as we watch. Apologies aside, what should Volkswagen do next? Your thoughts?

A timely PRemiere


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The Museum of PR’s timeline features beautiful graphics depicting the history of public relations

What do Confucius and Edward Bernays have in common? Can you find a link between historical villains Genghis Khan and Joseph Goebbels? How were cave paintings, the printing press, and social media fundamental to public relations? The answers can be found in a timeline just launched by the Museum of Public Relations and sponsored by Hofstra University.

“Public Relations Through the Ages: A Timeline of Social Movements, Technology Milestones and the Rise of the Profession” uses 36 beautifully-designed slides and text to illustrate the evolution of our profession and its relationship to the development of human communication. According to the museum’s web site, “This timeline highlights the significant people, events and inventions which have connected messages and messengers through the ages.”

The timeline is the brainchild of Shelley Spector, the executive director and founder of the Museum of Public Relations, the only PR museum in the world. Shelley correctly observes that the history of PR is fundamentally tied to the evolution of communication. For thousands of years, religion, politics and essentially all human interaction have public relations skills and strategies at their foundation.

For example, within the timeline you’ll learn that ancient Greek thinker-philosophers known as “sophists” taught nobleman seeking public office the art of persuasion; Saint Patrick of Ireland helped spread Christianity by using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity; the word propaganda, the Latin word for plant and animal reproduction, was later used as a method for spreading information, most heinously by the Nazis; the Boston Tea Party was an early example of a “pseudo event” for publicity’s sake; and that many of today’s large PR agencies are run by international holding companies.

Designed by Shelley’s husband Barry Spector with input from yours truly, the timeline will serve as a superb jumping off point for students, educators and researchers alike to learn from and form a broader perspective on the practice of public relations. A narrated version will go on the road and be available for viewing soon. Please click here to take a look at the timeline and comment. Your thoughts?

 

PRimary choices


If you believe polls, Tuesday’s New York presidential primary this Tuesday will see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump emerge as winners. Both New York residents will have what is typical of most primaries: victories in their home state.

New Yorkers can only cast a vote for a candidate in the party in which they are registered. Republicans will decide if they support the controversial GOP front-runner Trump or one of his remaining rivals. Registered Democrats must choose between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the former New Yorker who has surprised pundits by giving Hillary a run for her money.

Sometimes the decision on who to vote for isn’t based on a “favorite” candidate; rather, it’s a pragmatic determination. If you’re a Democrat, you might consider who has the best chance of beating Trump or whomever the GOP nominates at its convention. If you’re a Republican, you may reflect on whether you’re happy with Trump as our potential president, or whether you should support Ted Cruz or John Kasich if they have the better shot at beating the Democrat.

You also could base your decision on who most closely reflects your own political views, or the candidate who you simply find more likable. Trump and Sanders supporters seem to favor their candidates’ tendency toward blunt talk and how they often avoid “political correctness.” In Trump’s case there’s no such thing as political correctness, and a lot of people find this appealing. Many find it appalling, not only because much of what he says is outrageous on many levels, but because he is a public relations nightmare. One can only imagine how his lack of a PR filter would be perceived and interpreted on an international stage.

Despite public relations debacles that would have sidelined any other candidate, Donald Trump is leading his primary battle. But blunt, unfiltered words are likely to become damaging to national policy and politics. I’ll base my vote on whose words and positions–and whose PR filter–will effectively lead us for the next four years. It’s a choice not to to be taken lightly. Your thoughts?

PRofound benefits


Have you considered joining the Association for Astrological Networking? How about the World Association of Detectives? The International Association of Youth Hypnotists, perhaps? Or the American Association of Candy Technologists?

These organizations are real and draw their membership from very specific groups of professionals. They’re known as trade associations and each one of them share a similar mission: to bring professional development, educational and networking opportunities to people with similar careers and interests.

There’s tremendous value in belonging to such organizations and public relations practitioners are no exception. There are countless international, national and local PR associations providing a myriad of services and programs for their members. These groups provide connections to job opportunities and mentoring, and offer resources for professionals to keep up with changes in their industries. As PR people know, few industries are changing as quickly as public relations.

PRPLI_logo_cropped_wordsOf course, the largest trade organization for PR professionals is the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Its members number more than 22,000 public relations and communications professionals and more than 10,000 students through the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Although annual membership fees are a bit pricey (but much less for PRSSA members transitioning from college), the access its members have to information, advice and networking is invaluable.

As you seek the benefits of a PR trade group, you should also look locally. You can find dozens of such associations listed, for example, at odwyerpr.com. Wherever you are there’s likely to be a PR or communication-related organization you can join, including the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI), a group with which I’ve been involved since 1990. The huge advantage to local organizations is they’re filled with people who work where you work and can connect you with nearby opportunities you’ll likely use. Through relationships I made with fellow PRPLI members I’ve gotten jobs, consulting work, enhanced my skills, and made lifelong friends.

Whether you’re a student graduating or a professional in search of connections, do yourself and your career a big favor — join a PR trade association. Will you? The benefits can be profound. Your thoughts?

More to come: Another important professional group: AEJMC’s PR Division

 

Misused aPostRophes


Apostrophe

Window signage spotted in an outdoor mall in Miami

Why do misused apostrophes and other poor punctuation drive me so crazy?  Why does bad grammar–at least in written form–make me batty? As I noted in a blog post about three years ago and repeatedly since then, I’m a stickler for writing right, partially because employers demand it.

Well, maybe most employers demand it, but apparently someone in charge at American Eagle Outfitters’ corporate office does not, or worse, doesn’t know the difference. During my spring break vacation this week, I spotted yet another of the so many incorrect apostrophes which seem to be plaguing signage and ads everywhere (see the photo, left).

Grammar picGrammar mistakes abound as well. We generally can forgive poor grammar when we’re having a casual conversation, but when we see it in signs (see photo, right), papers or even resumes, the results can be comical and often costly.

It’s a point well made in a 2012 article by iFixit CEO Kyle Weins titled, “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.”  Weins gives a mandatory grammar test to every applicant. “On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair,” he wrote. “After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?” He goes on to say, “I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing…I hire people who care about those details.  Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important.  And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on resumes.  Sloppy is as sloppy does.”

Weins’ point could not be more important to anyone working in public relations or any communication-related field.  Proper grammar and punctuation are essential, and mistakes can cost you your job–or prevent you from getting a job in the first place.  If you’re not good with grammar and punctuation, become good.  If you’re good, get better. For a PR practitioner, it’s essential.  Your thoughts?

PRofessional goals


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Students have their “light bulb” moments at the PRSSA Regional Conference March 19

Last week I asked Hofstra PRSSA Regional Conference attendees to discuss their “light bulb” moment, an instance when a PR professional may have said something inspirational. Among their responses were clear resolutions to initiate opportunities and channel professional goals into action. Here’s a sample of their comments:

“Never judge on a person based on the person’s position at that point in time-because they may turn out to be someone important. I like the part about not letting failure drag you down.”

“We should take into account that information comes from ALL kinds of sources and that if something is not on the Internet, this does not mean it doesn’t exist or has value to us.”

“A specific light bulb moment for me was when one of the panelists stated that a person shouldn’t really go to the media unless they have something to talk about or promote. Once they have something to speak about, the relationship between the media and that particular organization can grow.”

“It definitely proved to me that it is possible to have a ‘dream job’ freshly out of school, but also to wait a little bit for the right one to come along if you are really passionate about a specific part of the industry.”

“When (a panelist) told us to not be afraid of failing and provided several extremely credible examples about individuals failing, it really hit hard. The next time I’m thinking about taking a chance, I will now be less fearful and remember her comments.”

“My light bulb moment was when (panelist) Denice Pigott said, ‘Tell everyone what your goals are; you never know who can help you.’ Sometimes we forget that the relationships we foster with our colleagues can present opportunities in the future.”

“I think I’ve finally realized and accepted that I have the capability to create my own future and I truly can do what I want–-regardless of what others say or what I convince myself I can or can’t do.”

These are profound, life-changing words. So what action will you take now to reach your professional goals? Your thoughts?

Past PRecedents


From time to time Public Relations Nation posts a guest blog written by a Hofstra student. Danielle Kent is a senior majoring in public relations at the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University. The observations expressed here belong to the writer:

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Guest blogger Danielle Kent

Donald Trump. The man whose notoriety once stemmed from firing contestants on “The Apprentice” has since been making waves as a political front runner. Reports of an anti-Trump Super PAC within the GOP have many wondering how a man whose party so openly criticizes him has garnered such impressive national support. Trump has beat competitors in most GOP primaries–taking Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and others out of the race– and has gained voter support across most demographics.

Though liberals tend to knock the GOP for having an unclear stance on issues currently plaguing the U.S., Trump is certainly not ambiguous and Americans love it. Trump is transparent about his intentions to halt immigration by building physical borders and mass deporting illegal aliens. He also intends to overturn Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a once controversial act that has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by millions.

Trump certainly lacks originality; his ideas, though extreme, are not revolutionary. He also lacks a strong conservative backing. His platform is conservative-leaning, but surprisingly moderate. So why do some keep voting for him?

Oddly enough, Trump shares a lot of similarities with his liberal opponent, Bernie Sanders. Less concerned with their goals as politicians, Americans sense authenticity in Trump and Sanders that many politicians lack. Trump may make polarizing statements that offend entire groups of people, but he does so honestly without fear of criticism.

Most Americans are skeptical of the government and in light of the many political scandals that have emerged in years past (Watergate, anyone?), this skepticism is not in vain. Both candidates share a similar “buck stops here” attitude, rejecting traditional political practices. They are loud, vulnerable, and unapologetic. Say what you want about Trump’s political views, but he certainly knows his target. The working class loves a success story and Trump positions himself as such.

Regardless of whether or not Trump gets elected, one thing has become painfully obvious: Americans are fed up with the precedents set by politicians of the past and they want real change. Is Donald Trump their answer?

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