Monthly Archives: April 2009

The Windy City Candidate

As of April 23, 2009, at 11:22 p.m. “the windy city” has 1,113,258 “friends supporting the bid” according to Chicago’s 2016 candidate city Web site.

The following is a statement also on Chicago’s 2016 candidate city Web site:
“On April 14, 2007, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) selected Chicago as the U.S. Bid City for the 2016 Games. Chicago will now compete with other international cities for the honor of being the official 2016 Host City. The final decision on which international city will host the 2016 Games will be made in October 2009.”

Chicago is one of four remaining cities in the race to host the 2016 Olympics. The other three are Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Many are excited about the posibility of the Olympics being held in Chicago; however, some remain skeptical.

According to an article in The Firm Voice titled An Olympic Opportunity: How to Leverage an Olympic Sponsorship to Communicate Your Brand, communication specialists said the Beijing Olympics raised the bar for future Olympic sites. The panelists went on to say that with this great challenge PR professionals had unlimited opportunities, especially in the areas of digital platforms when working with clients at the Olympics.

Some think Chicago may not be able to handle the scope of the Olympics. There are many considerations to think about when hosting such a wide-scale international event. Some of these include accomodations, environment, security, venues, medical services and technology. Some of the responses to these arguments can be found in Chicago’s bid book.

Efforts to bring Chicago in good light also include a new Web site called ESPN Chicago specifically devoted to Chicago’s “sports teams, scores, stats, news, standings and rumors.” Chicago is also getting exposure since it is President Obama’s hometown. President Obama sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee President Rogge endorcing Chicago’s candidacy for the 2016 Olympis. Having Obama behind this candidacy is a great way to gain exposure on this location as well as relying on his global popularity.

Although some are still skeptical of Chicago’s ability to host the 2016 Olympics, the city is showing initial effort in preparing for the possibility. The 2016 games will not be held for another seven years so there is still time to prepare for the event, nomatter where the location will be.

-Amy Hannah Burkhalter

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A Silent Birthday

Today is the 13th Annual National Day of Silence. On this day, many people refrain from speaking to call attention to anti-LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Today, April 17, 2009, also would have marked the twelfth birthday of Carl Walker-Hoover who tragically took his own life on April 6 after another heart-breaking day of bullying at his school, The New Charter Leadership School in Springfield, Mass.

Carl’s mother, Sirdeaner Walker, said Carl had been unhappy with how he was being treated at school since he began in September. Students were constantly bullying him by saying that he was gay and that he acted like a girl. Sirdeaner said she repeatedly called the school over the last six months to report the harassment that her son was suffering. The school insisted that the harassment was due to the immaturity of students. Carl would not give the names of the bullies for fear of even more harassment as a result of being a “snitch”. A few weeks before Carl took his own life, an incident occurred where he accidentally bumped into a young girl who then repeatedly threatened to kill him. A school mediator made Carl and the girl eat lunch together every day for a week in hopes of reconciling the situation.

The New Charter Leadership School and its president, Henry M. Thomas III, have been under major scrutiny since the tragedy took place. They absolutely have a public relations crisis on their hands. Since the death of Carl, Sirdeaner Walker has insisted that this tragic event could have been stopped. I have to agree with her. I know that the school is not completely at fault for the death of Carl, but they were aware of the problem and turned their heads. When does a school have to step in? Is the immaturity of students an excuse to look the other way while a child suffers? The school mediator took a step in the right direction when he made Carl and his female classmate have lunch, but if the New Charter Leadership School would have responded to all of Sirdeaner Walker’s complaints, the life of young Carl Walker-Hoover may not have been cut so short.

Since the death of Carl, there have been mixed reports as to the school’s response. Carl’s mother said that she received no calls or acknowledgment from the school. She admitted that she heard of the school’s vigil in his honor from a friend. Henry M. Thomas III, the school’s founder and president, said in an interview with The Republican Newsroom that he tried to call her on Tuesday, after Carl’s death and every day after, until Friday when he went to visit her in person. This was a very good step made by Thomas and the New Charter Leadership School.

Carl Walker-Hoover is not the only middle-school child to take his own life due to persistent bullying. Three young boys in the state of Illinois took their lives in the month of February for the same reason. Why are schools not stepping in when parents call in complaints on their child’s behalf? What steps need to be taken in order to ensure that this kind of tragedy not take place?

Schools, public or private, need to get back to the basics of public relations: the managing of relationships between their publics. A school’s publics would be students, parents, faculty, staff, community and news media. If a faculty member of a school was being harassed, there would be some form of complaint that could be filed. When a parent calls to report harassment, the school should be sure to aknowledge what is happening and keep an eye on the situation. The students are a school’s most important public. A school is built to educate students and prepare them for the future; therefore, students should have their complaints investigated. It is also in the best interest of the kids doing the bullying to be repremanded. If a school turns the other way, then how is that educating the bullying children on the simple aspects of life? If the child, like Carl, is too afraid to point the finger and it is the parent that makes the report, then this should also be taken seriously by the school.

What is next for The New Charter Leadership School and other schools whose students fall victim to the loss of young lives due to bullying and harassment? So far, The New Charter Leadership School has announced that they are offering counseling to faculty and students. I believe there should be sessions where trained presenters or speakers talk to the students as a whole about the issue of bullying. This would send a message that the school is attempting to correct the issue that Carl fell victim to. It would also create a much better environment for the students, a school’s main public, to thrive in. The issue of bullying should be addressed just as much as the abuse of drugs, alcohol and the message of safe sex.

The death of Carl Walker-Hoover was undoubtedly a tragedy. Carl cried out for help, and his cries were not heard. Hopefully the loss of his young life and the other lives ended due to bullying will create a better understanding of schools facing this issue. Schools cannot turn the other way anymore. Today, on this Day of Silence, nearly 100,000 people will choose to not speak in honor of lives like Carl’s and to stand up for those currently facing the harassment and bullying he struggled with for six months. Days before today, his twelfth birthday, Carl made a decision that no child should be forced to make. It is up to schools and parents to generate a learning environment in which bullying is not tolerated.

– Dianna Duffy

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Going Up

I am planning to graduate from college in less than a year, and I can only imagine the difficulties that I am going to have in finding a job. The job market is not as booming as many of us would like, so I am going to make sure that I take full advantage of any opportunity to make an impression on a potential employer. This may even mean talking to one in an elevator.

An elevator pitch is a short, creative speech that a person can prepare about herself and is usually about 30 seconds long. If the moment were right, when you were in an elevator with someone to impress, you would talk about your qualifications for a job or your career goals. This is the first step in making a positive impression and sometimes may land you an interview. It doesn’t necessarily have to be used for employment purposes. Some people may use it to acquire new clients or employees may take this opportunity to impress a CEO. According to the Tuscaloosa News, another place to use an elevator pitch is at a career fair.

According to Chris O’Leary at elevatorpitchessenitals.com, your speech should leave them wanting to know more because it is just the beginning of a conversation. O’Leary had nine things that make an effective elevator pitch:
1. Concise
2. Clear
3. Compelling
4. Credible
5. Conceptual
6. Concrete
7. Consistent
8. Customized
9. Conversational

In order to make a good impression, I think you need to be confident as well. According to the Kaye Public Relations Blog, there are three steps in creating your elevator pitch. You need to know your target audience, what they want or need and why they should believe in you. If you are looking for a job, you must know which people have the most influence, understand the type of employee they want and then let them know how you would succeed in their company.

When writing your pitch, it is important to stay creative and descriptive. According to a freelancefolder blog , the writer would describe himself as “a writer who compels people to take action.” The second step is to incorporate that into what your target audience wants or needs, for example:

“Hi. I’m James. I’m a writer who compels people to take action, which means I can help you achieve better sales with great content that makes readers want to do business with you so that you can sit back, relax and watch the money pour in.”

So now that you have some advice in writing your elevator pitch, put it to good use by writing one and practicing. When you are least expecting it, you may be presented with an opportunity to use it!

Sarah Minkel

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The new Company Man

Let me start off this blog post with a statistic. Did you know that the Department of Labor reports that workers ages 18 to 34 change employers (or occupations under the same employer) an average of 10 times? That’s shocking. It really throws out the window the notion that anyone will be working for the same company out of college ‘til retirement.

Over Spring Break, I did a lot of soul searching, and after thoughtful consideration, I decided to resign my position as an advertising representative at our campus newspaper. I had always thought I would be working for the paper until I graduated, but I think life (or at least my college life) has something more in store.

As much as I love working as an account executive selling advertisements to campus organizations and departments, I decided that being a salesperson is not what I want to do with my life. Yes, I have enjoyed my time at the paper. And indeed, I have developed a new sense of professionalism, work ethic and insight into effective advertising. But I haven’t been writing. In fact, at a recent newspaper advertising conference, the recruiters representing different newspapers across the nation all commented on how my writing experience was quite unusual for someone wanting to sell newspaper ads. That’s when I realized, I needed to move on.

I felt as if I was pursuing something that I ultimately had no intention of doing. I want my resume to read, “strategic, analytic writer who can build positive relationships between your organization and your publics.” Not, “dedicated salesman.” Sure, we all have to possess a little salesmanship in any job. That’s how an accountant gets new clients or a public relations firm acquires business. Even in a job interview, you have to sell yourself. However, I do not want to be cold calling on potential accounts or prospecting business in a geographic territory.

I feel incredibly free and vulnerable now. I have to account for a new stream of income for the next school year, but I have more time now to pursue activities that will help me achieve my professional goals. So my advice to students is do something you are passionate about. Yes, I learned a lot from my job at our campus newspaper, and no, I don’t regret a second of it. In fact, it is because of that job that I am even more convinced of what I want to do. So go out and experience what life has to offer. Otherwise, you may end up missing an opportunity.

Life has got many plans for me, and I look forward to gaining a multitude of experiences. So even though I may not be devoted to selling ad space in our newspaper until I graduate, I am proud to be part of the job change statistic.

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Think Twice

Most people would be content for six months with a $100,000 salary and lying on an island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  With this job, you will only have to feed several hundred fish, clean the pool and check the mail.  Other days may consist of trying out the latest spas or snorkeling through coral communities.  Also offered with the position is a fully furnished three bedroom, two-bath house with no utilities to be paid.  The only real duty is to regularly blog about the island with pictures and video posts.

Tourism Queensland  is the sponsor of the latest public relations stunt to hit the Internet.  The campaign was created in hopes that the increased attention would encourage travelers to vacation to the island. Measurable tourism numbers can not be seen until later years, but interest in the “Best Job in the World” may remind tourists where they can vacation next.  The Internet was the best medium to gain attention but such a stunt may not be the best decision for all.

Publicity/PR stunts are “planned events made to gain exposure and get public’s attention”.  A celebrity’s recent romantic rendezvous, a company’s product giveaway or outrageous leaks to generate excitement about a brand are all examples of PR stunts in the recent years. 

So is a PR stunt really the best way to get the public’s attention?

No one has compiled a list of the best and worst publicity stunts. Each year brings new attention grabbers for the public to take in.

Some bloggers say Twitter is just a PR stunt for celebrities. Twitter has created followings from celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Matthews and John Mayer. Current updates from celebs instantly alert followers of daily activities. Generating buzz and advertising upcoming performances, Twitter is another medium for celebrities to be talked about in the media.

Everything can go wrong, even the best laid plans.   In the news lately, the Octomom has graced every entertainment blog and has seen her way on the 24-hour news channels.  The public backlash has been one of disbelief and questioning of reproductive technology physicians.   Perhaps she hoped to gain notoriety in the entertainment business, but bad news will stay with someone forever now thanks to the Internet.

Another recent PR stunt that may have not been one of the best thought-out plans was the Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast on Feb. 3, 2009.  Anyone could get a free grand slam breakfast from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. The only catch . . . lines were an average of three hours long.  Denny’s spent millions in advertising during the Super Bowl and the following days, along with several millions more of free food across the country.  Denny’s hoped this PR stunt would generate increased business, but their plan did not work that well.  People will still eat at Waffle House and IHOP, as one free breakfast won’t change a devoted customer’s mind. 

Some public relations practitioners have debated whether or not PR stunts are a good way to build relationships with target publics.  PR stunts generate attention to the sponsoring organization but that soon dies with time.  The public may look further into the company’s products or goals, but most of the time, stunts will not garner lasting attention.

If a PR stunt is in your organization’s future, there are a few things to help ensure success as quoted by a PRWeek article:

      Do:

  •  Think about how the event will reflect on the brand identity and the message it will send to consumers.    
  • Create fun and engaging visuals for the media that will look good on camera.
  • Make sure you give the media a very clear idea of what those visuals will be in advance of the event.

       Don’t:

  • Let bad timing steal coverage. Make sure you check for conflicting news stories.
  • Aim for publicity for publicity’s sake. Be certain your event is appropriate for the client’s product or service.
  • Don’t underestimate the problems that can occur. Being prepared for the worst-case scenario is essential.

Movie production companies, restaurants and tourism boards all implement PR stunts to get people talking, but PR stunts can put your organization in the worst hall of fame.  The best advice . . . think twice.

-Julie Brown

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An Odd Place, Explained

The public perception of Jon and Kate Gosslin, stars of TLC’s hit television series Jon and Kate Plus 8, varies across the blogosphere, in turn putting PR professionals to work. Aspiring to work in the pubic relations field, I am going to treat the Jon and Kate Plus 8 image as a client, evaluate their situation and attempt to clarify a statement recently made.

Individuals or groups have decided this highly publicized relationship is right, wrong, selfish, unselfish, etc. Most recently, debates have focused on alleged marital discord between Jon and Kate. On the season four finale, rumors seemed to be turning into truth when Kate stated, “We are in an odd place right now.”

Immediately following the episode, the Internet was abuzz with interpretations of what the comment meant exactly. The overriding opinion was that Jon finally had enough of Kate’s act and he was ready to leave his over-controlling wife. People cited Jon’s skiing trip, decreased joint airtime for the couple and allegations of Jon’s misbehavior at a Pennsylvania college bar as justification for their feelings. Supporters on Kate’s end made it clear that Jon was entirely wrong for leaving his wife behind to take care of eight kids and two dogs by herself.

It is human nature to pick sides in any argument. Often, one will support the side that he or she can most relate to. Thus, it is perfectly acceptable to have a strong opinion that champions one character while villifying the other. However, before YOU decide who you are rooting for, understand the reality hidden by this alternate reality.

Unless you have first hand experience with Jon and Kate and have fully witnessed how the married couple’s life unfolds day-to-day, it is unfair to accuse one side or the other of being the cause of any alleged discontent. Sometimes, the old adage, “seeing is believing” does not ring true. The world of reality television is far from reality. All reality shows have a montage of clever directors and producers who are perfectly capable of manipulating any situation, facial expression or quote. Because of this, a viewer is coaxed in to believing a director’s intended message in each scene.

We came to find out following the couple’s final on-air interview at the end of Jon and Kate plus 8, season 4, that the couple’s aforementioned odd place was not concerning their marriage but rather whether or not to come back for a fifth season. Jon Gosslin is not convinced that the show should go on, citing a lack of identity beyond the show. “I am no longer just Jon. I have to be Jon and Kate plus 8,” said a seemingly frustrated Jon during the on-air interview. Conversely, Kate is very content with the show and what it has provided for her children. Season 4 concluded very open-ended and, by design (mind you), entices the viewer to come back for the fifth season.

The two have and will continue to discuss the pros and cons of living life in the public eye. As for any marital unrest the couple is experiencing, the couple swears that they are going to fight through the “odd place” and do what is best for them and the family’s well-being. That being said, before you tune in for season 5, have a sense of impartiality and focus on the true meaning of the show—the difficulties associated with raising not one, not two, not three but EIGHT children.

– Carly Jayne Rullman

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