Don’t be mad, be good

On Sunday, June 1, 2008 legal analyst Andrew Cohen of CBS spoke out on former White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellen’s new tell-all book. In his report, “The Flak on Flacks,” Cohen accuses PR professionals of making a living on untruths. He even calls out PRSA’s ethics. National PRSA responded. Cohen responds. And the arguing rages on, and on, and on.

First off, I disagree with Cohen’s sweeping generalization of PR people as liars. I was pleased to see a quick response by PRSA through the letter plus e-mails to membership keeping us updated. But it is hard to argue with the perception of public relations as a profession in society.

I’ve read where maybe the public relations profession should have a PR campaign. I don’t think this is possible. I don’t see how anyone could change societal views of public relations any more than I think people will start thinking highly of politicians, lawyers, used-car salesmen or journalists. We are viewed in a negative light. There is no denying this. People see us using “spin” to cover up problems.

I fall under the broker paradigm of public relations: An intermediary between an organization and its stakeholders to find mutually beneficial solutions. (Tip of the hat to Kami Huyse on her insightful post.)

What I do know is this: I can only control what I do as a communications/PR professional to influence how my sphere of influence sees my profession. I hope when people look at me and the work I do, they see a credible and honest professional who keeps in mind the best interests of my organization or client.

I should not/will not apologize for trying to make my organization or client look good for stakeholders. It is up to me to accomplish this task with integrity and not lie. We would better serve our profession by striving to be better at our profession including an adherence to its ethical standards.

Photo Credit: nouQraz


Social Media for Newbies, Act II

If you are anything like me, and you find social media tools fascinating and the communication potential for your organization growing, please consider yet another video to help explain the big picture.

The folks at Common Craft did it again: Social Media In Plain English

Along with having another way of explaining Social Media, now I want some ice cream too!

A universal language

International space stationOver the holiday weekend I watched a few things that solidified my appreciation for mathematics and science.

For two nights in a row the international space station “flew” over North Texas at a rate of about 27,700 km/hr (or 17,210 mi/hr). It looked like a star shining across the night sky. I watched in amazement that this man-made machine was orbiting the Earth with people inside. We’ve forgotten how cool space exploration can be.

I also watched as a control room of rocket scientists (seriously) cheered as the Phoenix Mars Lander made it safely to the red planet. For fun I started to follow the Mars lander on Twitter to get updates from the mission. (Note: This is a clever use of the micro-blogging platform.)

Lastly, I enjoyed some Mythbusters on the Discovery channel. They do some very cool, fun, and dangerous stuff on the show.

All three of these led me to a common theme: We would be lost without mathematics and science.

Consider what Thomas Friedman says in The World is Flat in the section called The Quiet Crisis where he explains the areas in which he believes the United States is deficient:

Today, we should be concerned about the gaps in our education, infrastructure, and ambitions that threaten to weaken us from within…

We simply are not educating, or even interesting, enough of our own young people in advanced math, science, and engineering…

It takes fifteen years to train a scientist or advanced engineer, starting from when that young man or woman first gets hooked on science and math in elementary school. Therefore, we should be embarking immediately on an all-hands-on-deck, no-holds-barred, no-budget-too-large crash program for science and engineering education.

I want to encourage young parents to consider working through fears of math (especially word problems) or science confusion. Seek out the answers to your kids’ questions to light that intellectual spark early in life.

Of course, we keep in mind the right-brain tools as well, but consider what Jodi Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, in the 1997 movie Contact had to say: “Mathematics is the only true universal language.”

I’ll be encouraging my kids to appreciate math and science. I want them to know It will be ok to be smart. And who knows, maybe my kids or grandkids will be blogging from the moon.

Efficient or lazy?


Originally uploaded by vedo’s pics

Saw this sign and it made me think about the differences between being efficient and being lazy. Sometimes we take our communication tools for granted and communicate the wrong thing. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are being efficient by using the latest and greatest technology. Sometimes we just run out of letters. Either way our intended message may not be the message we send.

Communication 101: You cannot not communicate.

Even the unintentional can send a bad message.

The changing landscape of Public Relations

I am proud to be a public relations professional. Some outside people might scoff at the idea of being in PR. They (like many people I would guess) have an antiquated idea of public relations.

There is a great song by Jimmy Buffet, Public Relations off of the Don’t Stop The Carnival album about Norman Paperman, a Broadway press agent who is in need of an awakening:

Up every morning, out every evening
Hustling for headlines, that’s what I do
Table at Sardi’s, grappling for gossip
Working the press for a mention or two
I never acted like some nervous rookie
Right form the start I was hot as a cookie
I was a numero uno
What a debut

Public Relations, Public Relations
Boozing and schmoozing, that’s what I do
PR’s my vocation
And I’m a sensation
Public relations

Such hullabaloo

Public Relations, Public Relations
Ego inflation, that’s what I do
Isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it fabulou
Public Relations, such hullabaloo

While humorous, the song’s lyrics say what many people may think about PR.

We should not forget the bread and butter of our craft (especially in media relations). However, with the changing communication landscape PR professionals need to be better equipped at integrating social media.

So what does it mean to practice PR? According to the “bible” of public relations, Cutlip, Center and Broom’s definition:

Public relations is a management function that seeks to identify, build, and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and all of the publics on whom its success or failure depends.”

Mutually beneficial relationships

Relationships should be nurtured and grown over time. As a PR professional, I need to seek out and adapt to ways of reaching my organization’s community.

I like the idea of getting rid of the word “users” and replacing it with “guests”.

I agree that we need to be more efficient.

I think Jason Falls is on to something when he asks “Can Advertising Truly Be Social?”

And even though he specifically targets agencies, Todd Defren’s post Five Thoughts on the Future of Public Relations should get the rest of us thinking.

I once read the following:

Don’t confuse revolutionary change with evolutionary change.

In this case, the evolutionary change must come from the PR practitioner. Keep up or get left behind.

Jump in, the water’s fine

Chris Brogin put out an interesting set of questions for his blog readers:

What were your first steps into social media?

Who were your early people you admired and followed?

How did you get started?

If you were going to give advice to someone starting out, what would you tell them?

What will you do in the next few months with social media?

As I read the questions, pondered my answers and read through some of the (at the time) 77 comments, I thought it might be a way to assess where I am today with this fun stuff: Here’s how I answered his questions:

…first steps into social media? I’ve had a vague understanding for a while, but never really saw how it could help in my current place of employment. However, we did start a blog for the school district, but didn’t really get going at first. I went to a presentation by Geoff Livingston at a Fort Worth PRSA meeting on integrating social media into communications plans. I found these simple and effective concepts fascinating. I read his book (Now Is Gone) and have been totally geek-ing out on SM ever since.

…early people you admired and followed? Geoff Livingston, Kami Huyse, Lauren Vargas, Brian Solis, Giovanni Gallucci, and others

…get started? Started with social networking sites MySpace then graduated to Facebook. Moved on to social bookmarking. I put some ideas to work in my first blog. Presented a session on New Media for School Districts for some fellow school PR professionals.

…advice? Jump in, the water’s fine.

…next few months with social media? I’ve been asked to give a Social Media for Newbies presentation for Fort Worth PRSA. Things are looking good so far. I am excited to see where this goes.

Social Media for the Newbies

I recently spoke at the School PR in North Texas group (North Central Texas region of the Texas School Public Relations Association) on the topic of Social Media for School Districts. I received some very good feedback from members. I also noticed a look of eyes that were glazing over at some of the ideas presented.

I think most everyone present had heard of social media in some form or another but maybe had not tried it themselves. There was even a point were it seemed that social media was being confused with social networking and that social networking had a bad rap in society. Public perception problems with MySpace tended to be where the certain group members turned their attention. (Note: social networking is a type of social media.)

This discussion had me thinking during the presentation that I was speaking to individuals with very different levels of engagement with social (or new) media. I realized that for school communication/PR professionals, we need to work to bring as many people as we can to understand the new forms of community engagement.

I’ve decided to find and bring to you dear reader a few quality, ground-level explanation-type links or ideas for the Social Media Newbie. There is no shame in being a newbie, in fact be proud of wanting to be a learner and expanding your communication repertoire.

Up first, Social Media by video:

I am a huge fan of The Common Craft Show. These guys are great explainers. They call it “sense-making for the masses.” There is a collection of videos called In Plain English, where seemingly difficult concepts are explained in, well you get the idea. Check out their In Plain English Videos covering the following: Blogs, Social Networking, RSS (Feed Syndication), Social Bookmarking, Wikis, and for fun check out Zombies.

Here’s the Common Craft Show Video: Blogs In Plain English:

When you are ready to move on, check out Social Media Strategies covering “the basic ingredients of social media.” Then proceed to archived lessons. Not all of the videos will cover aspects pertinent to school communications, but having the individual knowledge will only help make you a more effective communicator.

I’ll find more to add to the collection, but I would encourage you seek out other new media basics so we can get closer to speaking the same languages.