It’s generally accepted that politicians–from your local council member to the nation’s president–occasionally bend the truth to make a point or a promise. Getting votes by telling people what they want to hear, or avoiding controversy by not telling people what they should hear, is a sad reality of political life. As in public relations, truth is a valuable commodity and those who tell it are usually rewarded with the people’s trust and support. That’s why it’s so important for voters to seek the truth about what they’re told.
This couldn’t be more important than now in this toxic presidential election year. Aside from name-calling and personal attacks, we’re witnessing a massive assault on facts, with truth taking a back seat like never before. That’s why it’s helpful to look to the fact checkers among us. There are quite a few unbiased, non-political resources we can easily use to explore who’s telling the truth.
My favorite of these resources is politifact.com, a Pulitzer prize-winning website featuring a “Truth-O-Meter” with a simple rating system: “True,” “Mostly True,” “Half True,” “Mostly False,” and “Pants on Fire!” You can browse through specific candidates, elected officials, issues, and media. Not surprisingly, the site has come down especially hard on Donald Trump.
The New York Times’ Timothy Egan wrote last week, “Professional truth-seekers have never seen anything like Trump, surely the most compulsive liar to seek high office. To date, the nonpartisan PolitiFact has rated 76 percent of his statements lies — 57 percent false or mostly false, and another 19 percent ‘Pants on Fire’ fabrications. Only 2 percent — 2 percent! — of his assertions were rated true, and another 6 percent mostly true. Hillary Clinton, who is not exactly known for fealty to the facts, had a 28 percent total lie score, including a mere 1 percent Pants on Fire.”
The public relations profession is sometimes linked to “spinning” the truth, but ethical practitioners eschew such tactics. Politicians are less circumspect. That’s why we need to be aware of false statements and outright lies, and support candidates who deal in truth and facts. This election year, it’s clearly more important than ever. Your thoughts?
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?
Last week, I suggested the movie”Mary Poppins” contained lessons we can apply to public relations. Now with Christmas upon us, this nice Jewish boy from Long Island is also suggesting there are some lovely PR presents in some of his favorite holiday TV shows and movies which can also illustrate the value of PR:
- “A Charlie Brown Christmas” — When Charlie Brown is tasked with finding a Christmas tree, he buys the saddest looking one on the lot. He’s laughed at for his choice, forcing him to wonder what Christmas is all about. Like PR practitioners who often must serve as the conscience of their clients, Charlie Brown became the conscience of the people around him, looking beyond the commercialization of Christmas for deeper meaning.
- “A Christmas Carol” — There’s no better tale of redemption than this Dickens classic. Ebeneezer Scrooge learns through three spirits that caring for people is far more valuable than money. We usually don’t go into public relations to become rich, and many work in PR because our empathetic natures want to truly affect people’s lives.
- “It’s a Wonderful Life” — Desperate George Bailey’s life and spirit is saved when he realizes “no man is a failure who has friends.” The angel Clarence shows George how important his very existence has been to the lives of others. Like”Christmas Carol’s” lesson, PR people can touch so many others in positive ways, often with little recognition or fanfare.
- “Miracle on 34th Street” — Effective public relations is a theme throughout this film in which no one believes Kris Kringle is THE Santa Claus. His lawyer proves it by showing thousands of letters delivered to Santa by the U.S. Postal Service as courtroom evidence. PR people understand that objective, third-party endorsements are far more powerful than first-party claims.
- “Seinfeld” (the “Festivus” episode) — This silly faux holiday “for the rest of us” is a reminder to be inclusive. It’s also very funny, and we all know a sense of humor is fundamental to success and survival.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and may you find your PR lesson under the tree. Your thoughts?
How often has this been said? It’s a cynical question, based on the belief that professional success is primarily due to connections rather than knowledge. But is it true? There’s no question millions of people can point to who they knew as the reason they have a particular job. Case in point: I’ve held 10 full-time positions since my junior year in college and was led to nine of them through people I knew, not through a “help wanted” ad (the one exception being my current job at Hofstra). Making connections through professional networking and personal friendships create an exponential increase in potential opportunities.
“Knowledge is power.”
There can be little argument with that quote. Gaining knowledge through a formal education is essential in our society, but learning beyond the classroom is just as–and is often more–important. When a person brings ideas, problem-solving skills, and sensible approaches to a job, he or she becomes very valuable. And the learning never stops; it’s why nearly every trade and professional group offers conferences, workshops and seminars designed to enhance members’ skills and knowledge.
The point is that both maxims are true. Clearly, knowing people who can help you, advise you and maybe even hire you is key. But you can’t be led to a job without having the smarts to do the job. Conversely, the most intelligent people among us face a lifetime of challenges if they don’t find ways to make connections with people in a position to support them.
It’s why I repeatedly make the case for students to experience PR outside the classroom. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is one platform from which students can begin networking with professionals while learning more about the public relations industry. Hofstra PRSSA’s annual conference, to be held next week on Saturday, May 2, will include a half-dozen presentations in the morning and a networking lunch in the afternoon. It’s an essential opportunity for students to enhance both who they know–and what they know. Your thoughts?
“Students who started at community colleges…and then go on to a four-year institution — they essentially get the first half of their bachelor’s degree for free. People who enroll for skills training will graduate already ready to work, and they won’t have a pile of student debt.”
President Barack Obama’s address to an audience at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee highlighted higher education as a way to upward mobility. “A college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class. It is the key to getting a good job that pays a good income — and to provide you the security,” he said.
The president certainly isn’t wrong. Study after study shows a direct correlation between levels of education and levels of income. On average, the higher your degree, the more money you make. Of course, this isn’t true for everyone, but most Americans do feel the practical benefits of higher education.
The president added a condition to a free community college education. “You would have to earn it,” he said. “Students would have to do their part by keeping their grades up. Colleges would have to do their part by offering high-quality academics and helping students actually graduate…For those willing to do the work…it can be a game-changer. Two years of college will become as free and universal as high school is today.”
Mr. Obama’s plan would cost $60 billion over 10 years. There are already opponents balking at funding this program. But think about how much our government will spend in 2015: more than a trillion dollars goes to health care and nearly a trillion is spent on defense. Almost $100 billion is budgeted for transportation and $394 billion is for welfare. And this year, the government will spend an estimated $131 billion for education.
Whether an 18-year-old wants to major in public relations or a 45-year-old wants a degree to enhance career options, surely $6 billion a year to help people succeed is a very worthwhile investment. I want to hear more but I’m inclined to support the president’s proposal. Your thoughts?
My friend and PR mentor Bert Cunningham frequently suggests topics for Public Relations Nation. As I’ve done before, I asked Bert to be a guest columnist this week. I’m very happy he’s again providing us with his wise observations.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to one of Professor Morosoff’s PR classes. One of the challenges, and opportunities, discussed was that PR pros need to know how to use Big Data.
A recent New York Times article entitled “How Facebook is Changing the Way its Consumers Use Journalism” underscored the issue. The article described how Facebook’s use of algorithms to drive news to its users is “changing the way its users consume journalism.” In turn, Facebook’s algorithm-driven news feeds impact how news content providers structure their respective print, Internet and digital products, and how advertisers advertise and on what platforms.
It’s still a “bold new world” for traditional news media seeking to survive as the impact of social media and digital apps drive more of the news delivery process. What struck me was how this changes the PR pro’s role.
A cornerstone of PR is media relations. The basic tenet of media relations is to build relationships with reporters, editors and assignment desks. How will Big Data news algorithms change that equation? How does a PR pro build a relationship with an algorithm? I can imagine a Big Data-influenced call to a reporter going something like this: “Hi, Bill. It’s Bert. I have an interesting story for the XYZ non-profit’s annual fundraiser that’s truly unique.” “Really, Bert, sounds interesting. Let me see how non-profit fundraising stories are trending on Facebook’s algorithm…Sorry, way down. Call back when the algorithm is up.”
Extreme? Perhaps. But, here’s the point: The human factor is being taking out of the news business, because of the need to survive. News outlets always had to survive, but there was a wall between the news content side and the advertising side. Those lines are blurring more and more because of social media-driven news feeds. When the human factor goes out of the news business so will the ability of PR pros to build meaningful media relationships.
So what do future PR pros do? How will they cope with Big Data and news feed algorithms? Your thoughts?
Everyone should have something to point to
Something to be proud of
Look what I did, see what I’ve done
I did the job, I was the one
— from the musical “Working“
I felt kind of proud this week when WordPress electronically congratulated me on reaching 200 times that I’ve posted here on Public Relations Nation. It meant I haven’t missed a week in almost four years and I’m actually surprised at my consistency. You see, despite my somewhat organized persona, I can be quite the procrastinator and it sometimes take a lot of effort to get me to start–and finish–a job. Of course, working is much easier when you enjoy it, and writing this little PR blog for my students and colleagues is something I can point to.
Speaking of working, this past week Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter hosted several faculty members who revealed the paths they each took in their PR careers. A student asked how she could distinguish herself among her fellow student interns. The PR program’s newest faculty member, Kara Alaimo, responded, “Work really, really hard.” Professor Alaimo, who held multiple internships during college, noted that she earned positive feedback from her supervisors because she always gave every task her all.
As questions about jobs and working flowed, other faculty members expressed that success really only depends on what you’re willing to invest. They also advised the 40 students gathered to stand out by “finding something you love and really excelling at it” and “keeping an open mind about your future” and “making your boss’s job easier.”
Some marketing people call the something that makes a product or a person different and special a “unique selling proposition.” This concept forces us to find what makes us different than others who will be competing for the same jobs. We need to find our passion and do something really well–and then ensure that others see and recognize our efforts. Because as we achieve whatever we define as success, we all need something to point to, something to be proud of. Your thoughts?
“Eighty percent of life is showing up.” — Woody Allen
When students roll their eyes at the notion of attending PR-related events outside of class, I feel compelled to make the argument that it’s for their own good. And, to be sure, it is.
Countless students have found internships, gotten interviews and been offered jobs from those they met at PRSSA-sponsored events. They’ve also participated in professional development events held by organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI) that sometimes charge a fee. I suggest the $10 or $20 cost is a small but very worthwhile investment in their futures. Some on- and off-campus networking events and professional programs are free, so the only investments needed are time and a personal commitment to create opportunities.
There are always good reasons NOT to show up at an event. We can all point to other obligations, from jobs to homework to family to going out with friends. But each time we don’t participate, we’ve missed a chance to meet people who can help us learn and grow professionally.
If you’re a student, some of your fellow classmates (and your future competition for jobs) get it. They understand the need to make an effort if they’re serious about a public relations career. They’re also the ones who get hired soon after or sometimes even before they graduate.
For 30 years, I was pretty much never hired after answering an ad. Just about every position I’ve held, client I’ve signed, and PR campaign I’ve conducted, began with a professional relationship I had made with someone who was later in a position to hire me. In fact, I got my first PR job when I was recruited by a former classmate who then held a corporate position. The moral of the story: You never know who’ll end up in a place of influence and importance.
So, make friends with the person sitting next to you. Come to on- and off-campus events. Participate, network and learn. Show up. Your thoughts?