Sunday, March 27, 2011

Moral Support in the PR World

As many of you may (or may not) know, our professor has been booked solid with radio gigs all week to talk about Twitter’s birthday.  Myself and a few others stayed up till the deep and dark hours of the night to listen to one of her radio appearances on the Colorado radio news station, @850koa.  You might be thinking, “Listening to a radio talk show to discuss social media at 2 am doesn’t sound like that much fun to me.”  Well, my answer to that is, “You had to be there.”

It may have been the lack of sleep talking, but the experience made me realize how much I enjoy my major and what it is we do.  Even though I was dead tired the next day, I was still buzzing thinking about the entire experience.  Here is how the night went down:

First, the host introduced Professor Bufkins (@Samjb) as a knowledgeable social media and public relations professor at University of North Texas’s Mayborn School of Journalism.  Then he went on to talk about what Twitter was and how people are using it.  As he was asking questions, I felt the strong skepticism he had toward Twitter but he did seem receptive to the things my professor had to say about it and its value to media and public relations.  After that, the phones calls started coming in.  You might be asking yourself, “What kinds of listeners are up at 2 am?”  Well, this is where the hilarious fun part of the night started for me.

I could potentially write an entire blog about the first caller, but for the sake of time, I’ll just say he isn’t the type of demographic that Twitter is missing out on right now.  Not only does he not have an email account, but he doesn’t have a computer.  Before he even got to his question, he immediately starts mouthing off about how Twitter is stupid and how it’s making us all “borgs.”  To fully understand what he was trying to say, I turned to Wikipedia for some sort of understanding of what “borg” meant and I found this definition, “The “Borg” are a fictional pseudo- race of cybernetic organisms depicted in the Star Trek universe.”  Need I say more about this guy?  I bring him up because during my professor's conversation with him, I was pretty nervous for her.  How do you approach people like that who don’t want to hear that message at all?  I began tweeting to her to 1. Make fun of this guy and 2. Give her something to say back to him.  She absolutely handled the situation all by herself, as I knew she would, but I really felt compelled to jump in and send her as much as I could think of to say to Mr. Borg.  When other people called in with real questions, I was a tweeting maniac trying to add my input about how to respond.  Again, it wasn’t because I didn’t think she could handle it, I simply felt compelled to.

What I didn’t realize is I was doing what many PR professionals do with their clients.  Many instances arise where your client will be on a phone interview and you will literally be sitting right next to him or her handing them notes with answers to questions them.  Instead of tweeting them possible answers, I would be next to them helping them out and supporting them.  Will they need it? Maybe not.  My support for them during their interviews is what will make me a good PR professional.

It’s certain times like this when you realize you picked the right major and you’re really going to love what you do when you get out of college.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Social Media is Only for Smart People

In the past, the first amendment of the constitution paved the way for powerful social movements.  Unfortunately, it’s also given way for total jerks to voice their opinion.  I came across this article yesterday titled, "Facebook Imbeciles Think Japan Tsunami Is Karmic Payback for Pearl Harbor."  So, if that statement doesn’t bother you then you should probably stop reading this blog... Still here? Well, I’m glad you feel the same way I do.
I try to keep an open mind when it comes to view points that are very different than mine but in this particular case, I find it almost impossible to see where these people are coming form.  In my opinion, when someone tries to compare one tragic event to another as a means to “make up” for past events, it is just absolutely ridiculous.  One tragedy doesn’t cancel out another.  No one is keeping score this way, except for maybe these numb skulls. 
After reading some of the posts these people put on Twitter and Facebook, it got me thinking about free speech.  Before Twitter, when we had a problem about a company, we could go to Yelp to talk about our customer service complaint.  What platform was utilized to complain about what was going on in the world?
When my dad had an opinion or disagreement about something going on in the world, he would write to the editorial section on the Dallas Morning News.  My mom, on the other hand, would complain to me or her friends.  Both of these interactions involve some planning.  Now, with almost no planning at all, I can type something on Twitter and send it out into the web without another thought about it.  I attribute some of the comments made by these people as impulsive and without any thorough consideration.  However, even after thinking things through, some people still feel the Japan Tsunami was payback for the Pearl Harbor attacks.  This bothers me and it makes me upset to see people think this way, but what makes me angrier is, with social media, I have to hear about it on a grander scale.  It isn’t just my crazy neighbor with the gnome collection in his front yard who tells me the tsunami was karmic payback, it’s all of these random people in twitterville.  
Unfortunately, I can’t limit social media use to just smart people and I can’t control people’s opinions but what I can do in this society is voice my own opinion.  As public relations practitioner, we have to be cognizant of the existence of these impulsive tweeters.  Knowing how to manage ridiculous tweets about your client is what I still need to learn.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011


It goes without saying social media has come a long way since the beginnings of Facebook.  Companies are constantly finding new ways to interact with their consumer.  If you’re lucky, you can personally address a company on Twitter and actually have a dialogue with them.  One new channel of interaction, QR codes (quick response code), are becoming more and more popular.  They’ve been around for a while but only recently am I seeing them fully incorporated into social media campaigns.  I think the technology is brilliant but what I want to know if how it can be useful to a public relations campaign.

If we’ve learned anything from people’s reactions to social media it’s that we like the share.  We see the online world as a giant community that we are constantly interacting with.  The QR code acts as another device to contribute to the community and share information.  Unlike sending a link on Twitter or Facebook, the interaction you have with a QR code is pretty intimate.  Not flowers and candy intimate, but it requires more of an interaction with it than simply pressing the left click on a mouse.  It’s truly an experience to take a picture of the QR code with your phone and watch it take you somewhere else.  Sharing information can be an extremely passive experience.  This is not the case with QR codes.  
The use of QR codes aren’t just for the technologically savvy.  Several websites provide QR code conversions for regular Joe’s like me.  Here is one I just whipped up using

This QR code links back to the main page of my blog.  Al I had to do was click “details” and it had the option to use the QR code right there.  The process couldn’t have been easier.  
The real questions is, how on earth do we incorporate this into a public relations campaign?  In my opinion, if your client is looking for some real proactive interaction with their customers, this is a great way to do that.  Events involving scavenger hunts or any event that requires step by step directions could utilize QR codes.  Right now, this method appears to be the dark horse in the social media race but don’t totally discount it just yet!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sesame Street Cracked the Code (of Ethics)

Sesame Street Cracked the Code (of Ethics)
Some people might consider my generation as jaded.  A lot of us are skeptics and are quick to question motives from any entity, whether it be the media, or even a friend.  When discussing professional codes of ethics, the first place my thoughts travel to is Sesame Street.  Doing good, being honest, and being yourself (which would be equated with independence in the professional world), are alive and well on that show.  Here is a video of their morals in action:

Wasn’t that lovely?  In reality, no company can be as squeaky clean as big bird but that doesn’t stop them from trying.  Companies and organizations make codes of ethics to give themselves a moral compass.  After analyzing the different codes of ethics in the advertising and public relations world, you can’t help but think, “Geez, is all of this necessary, can’t they just do right?”  In public relations and advertising, the answers aren’t always clear and distinctive yes’s and no’s.    Having an ethical road map can help guide a company in making those tough decisions.  Many organizations operate under a strict code of ethics but they aren’t without their differences.  Here are a few difference that I thought were worth discussing.
Honesty, a topic covered in many, if not all, codes of ethics, is positioned in many different ways.    After comparing the different public relations and advertising codes of ethics, what stood out to me the most was IABC’s word choice when describing honesty.  The word “refrain” was used when describing the act of avoiding unethical communicators.  In a code of ethics, I don’t believe in using words like “refrain,” and “avoid” because those words have a negative connotation.  Statements using those words are limiting and for a code of ethics, that shouldn’t be the case.  I believe a code of ethics shouldn’t be a like a list a rules hanging on a 5th graders classroom chalkboard.  A code of ethics should be a living document that adapts to different situations an organization faces.
Concerning honesty, IABC goes on to say,“be honest not only with others but also, and most importantly, with yourselves as individuals. Seek the truth and speak that truth first to yourself.”  I think they may have taken a chapter out of the Sesame Street song.  Many employees adhere to an organizational code of ethics and forget about their own.  What the organization may see as ethical, you may not.  It’s important to keep your own personal ethics intact when working in an organization. 
I was a little surprised to see independence wasn’t discussed by the Arthur Page Society, Council of PR Firms, Global Alliance, and the IABC.  Only NIRI and PRSA touch on independence.  What that tells me is some organizations are weary of instilling the idea of independence in their employees.  With the concept of independence comes autonomy and for some organizations, they feel that is dangerous. Some organizations don't trust their employees self morals and values.  I feel the issue of independence should always be addressed because people are unique and are their own person.
Free Flow of Information
I unwaveringly feel all codes of ethics should touch on the concept of free flow of information.  This issue is constantly dealt with in the media on a daily basis.  Companies and organizations have destroyed themselves by omitting information.  One thing that has been drilled into my brain about the media is that nothing is hidden forever.  Skeletons are found in every closet of the dishonest.  It’s only a matter of time before those secrets are revealed.
My Favorite Code (I bet you could guess)
Of all the codes of ethics, I believe in the PRSA code of ethics the most.  It may be because I have close to 30 copies of it laying around in my apartment, but I do believe it is the most comprehensive and all encompassing code of ethics out there for PR professionals.  The public relations field is constantly scrutinized for unethical behavior.  Quite frankly, it sucks.  Many people believe PRSA has the most comprehensive code of ethics because we need it the most.  I believe we have it for ourselves and for the public.  We say a lot in class, “If the public has a problem, you have a problem.”  In this case, we know we act by a code of ethics, with the PRSA code of ethics available to everyone, now the public knows too.