Board Meetings and Learning in College

In one of my senior public relations classes, we are required to create a communications plan for the Denton County Transit Authority’s new passenger train, the A-Train. Since the professor of the class is quite generous, she allowed us the opportunity to earn extra credit by attending a public meeting conducted by the DCTA concerning the new service.  For my part of this, I decided to attend a DCTA Board of Directors meeting.

Before this, I was never given the opportunity to attend a board meeting, except for the ones I have seen on television. While the meeting was not exactly what I thought it was going to be, I found this encounter very interesting. This meeting not only showed me how this type of meeting like this is ran, which will probably come in handy at some time in my career, I was also able to learn more about the new A-Train itself. These included items such as the closure of roads to lay the tracks for the new train and how the budget for such a large endeavor works.

At one point in the meeting, the Board asked the Vice President of Communications questions concerning an upcoming event held by the organization. In her answer, she referred to the communication plan and stated how information about the event will be given to the many different publics of DCTA.

I found this very interesting because this is the exact thing we are currently learning in this PR class. It amazed me how people in the real world actually use what we are learning in class on a regular basis. I mean, we are actually going to use this stuff beyond the last day of class on May 11. I guess I figured we were just learning these things to know them and it never dawned on me that I would use this information, in the same manner that we are learning it, in my future career.

I leave you with this, if you are still in school, pay attention to what you learn in class because you will probably use it at some time in your future, whether you think you will or not.

Businesses and Selfishness

When I first got into public relations as a sophomore, PR Ethics was the one class I honestly did not want to take because, frankly, it sounded hard. When I thought of Ethics, all I could think was studying about several ethical theories that could all be correct at some point and having classroom discussions where people argue about which one is correct. None of this intrigued me and it all intimidated me. I honestly did not believe the real world used these ethical theories.  

Now that I am on the other side of Media Ethics and Law, I can honestly say that I was happily wrong. While we did learn and discuss several ethical theories that could all be right or wrong at some point, the material was surprisingly interesting. I learned that ethics do have a place in the real world, even if they are not always used.

To me, the most interesting thing I learned in ethics is how it seems that selfishness causes a large portion of the issues in business and business communications. It seems that when businesses follow the egoist theory of ethics, which is the idea of only doing things are in one’s own longtime self interest. Many followers of this theory do not act in ways that would fall under the idea of “not my problem,” which often leads to selfish actions, or in some cases, inactions. I heard before that many corporations are selfish, but I guess I never realized how prevalent it seems to be.

This does not seem to be a correct or efficient way to  run business communications. All communications, especially between a business and its publics, is a relationship because both sides must trust each other and believe the other side is being truthful. This relationship, like all others, cannot work without both partners participating in some form of sacrifice. If one portion of the relationship only does actions that are in its best interest and is not willing to sacrifice anything, the relationship will not work well and is definitely not an efficient way to conduct business.

An example of this theory is when Toyota changed its story on why cars were having accidents. At first, the company said the problem was caused by drivers themselves and the floor mats under the feet of the driver. Once this was found to not be the issue, the company said it was the accelerator. This action shows the company did not seem to want to deal with the issue because they did not feel it affected them. Even though the company did issue a recall on all vehicles, it was evidently discovered that the organization knew more about the situation then they originally led the public to believe. I am sure there are several other examples of how organizations have used this theory which evidently led to its downfall.

I feel that realizing this now, before my career in pr officially begins, is probably a good thing because it is often helpful to see how a certain course of action can lead down a path you may not want to go down in the first place. Often, seeing someone else do something that leads to certain consequences can help you to know not to do that action. I feel that studying how this selfish attitude leads to not only hurt relationships with publics but can also lead to the destruction of an organization.

The Things I have Learned as an Intern

Since I am graduating in a few weeks, I was thinking about what I have learned in college, both in and out of the classroom. With my internship finishing up in a couple of days, I started thinking about the things I have learned during my three past internships. Here is a list of the things I have learned during my internships.

  • No matter where your internship or what part of PR it is, you can always learn something. I am currently an intern with my local Congressman, which is somewhere I never thought I would want to work but I honestly enjoy it.
  • As an intern, never be too good to do anything. You never know what you might learn.
  • Have the courage to input your ideas. You never know what your superiors might actually enjoy.
  • Always take the initiative to do more than what is asked of you! Again, you never know what you might learn.
  • Build a network with everyone in the office!

Looking for a Job, Details and my Mother

As a senior in college, the fact that I am graduating in three weeks and will then be pushed out into the cold cruel world with a big girl job is somewhat scary. I mean, I have to go out into the large industry of PR and show that I have something to offer over every other graduating senior. It also makes me nervous to think about how this job will be from 8 to 5 five days a week, which is something I have only done for one summer.

Because of all of this, I was very excited when I found an article name Top 10 Things to Consider when Applying for a Job in Public Relations. This article, written for Utilizer, by Ryan Grieves, shows different ways for people in my position to set themselves apart from everyone else. This list includes items such as setting up an informational interview with people who work for agencies and corporations you would like to work for at some time and making sure your resume and cover letter are addressed to the tight company. Other interesting items on the list are to make sure you do your homework about the company and the position before an interview and to write a thank you for any interview you are lucky enough to get.

I find this list very fascinating because they seem to be somewhat common sense things to do when trying to show an employer you are the best choice. It seems to be natural to make sure a piece of writing is addressed to the intended person or to write someone a thank you for taking the time to talk to you about how you might be able to work in and enhance their organization. However, when looking back over my time of looking for a PR job, I did not always pay close attention to all of these small details, which is the difference between either getting or not getting a job. I find it amazing how the simplest things to do are the ones often forgotten.

I leave you with this, pay close attention to the small details in life and with the fundamentals of looking for a job. In the words of my mother “The smaillest detail can make the biggest difference.”

Women and Social Media

Women make up more than half of the population of the world, which is probably not surprising. Due to this, it should not be a huge surprise that women also make up a large portion of those using the Internet. One interesting thing about women on the Internet is that a large majority of them prefer to use social media websites.

I found an interesting article about a survey conducted by Ketchum and the Neilsen Group. This survey, the BlogHer-iVillage 2010 Social Media Matters Study, showed the different types of social media tools preferred by women, between blogs, micro-blogs and message boards. According to the study, of the 73% of women using social media, most of them enjoy using blogs, which were showed to be the most used tool on the Web. Another interesting item is that these users usually employ both blogs and search engines for information on online purchases. Most of the women who use sites such as BlogHer are more likely to also use and be more active on the top three social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. The study also found that women rely on social media to not only converse with others, but also to seek advice and recommendations for things such as purchases.

I find these facts interesting but not very surprising. Being a woman, I can see how women would use this new medium to talk to other women because it is what they often do face-to-face with their friends. I also find it interesting that women prefer blogs over the tools of social media. As a PR student, I find this study very interesting because it helps reveal that the Internet is a treasure trove of eager listeners for not only new products, but also new services.

Networking and Yoda from Star Wars

As a graduating college senior, building a network of professionals in PR along with keeping up with current and former professors and classmates is quite important. People often tell you how PR is a field where it is more about who you know than what you know. But, as a graduating senior, this process is also a little scary and very intimidating. I mean, these people are professionals who work in the real world everyday and I am just a student who has only kind of worked in the real world.

So when I came across this article in Journalistics about how to build a network, I was excited to read it because I wanted to learn all I can about this topic. The author, Jeremy Porter, offered several tips on how to meet and connect with professionals, such as having goals on who you want in your network, attending appropriate networking events, and having a good opener for when you are asked what you do or what you want to do. Other tips offered by the author were saying please and thank you, dressing appropriately and staying in touch with those you meet. He also shared how finding professionals and others to have in your network is more about quality than quantity.

After reading this article and looking at what I have done to build a network, it made me think about how many of these tips are what my mother and my elementary teachers taught, or at least tried, to teach me so many years ago. “Play well with other,” “Say please and thank you,” “Always look your best,” and my personal favorite “Don’t judge others on their first impression.”  I found this fact kind of funny and humorous. What our mothers and teachers taught us really is true and helpful in the real world. Who would have ever guessed?

This also made me think about how important relationships truly are in the world and in our lives. Sometimes it seems like most people do not really care about those around them who they see, live and work with everyday. However, in all honestly these people are important because you never know who a person you meet might be or who that person might know. In addition, you also never know what you can do to help that person as well.

I leave you with this, networking and meeting people is just like anything else in life, you have to sincerely work at it and it is definitely not something you can half-way do. In the words of Yoda from Star Wars “Do or do not. There is no “try.”

The Powers of Social Media

Last week, I opened my computer and logged onto the Internet, which is an occurrence multiple times in day and I logged onto Facebook. I noticed my Newsfeed was full of my Journalism friends, and a few professors, commenting on how the AP Stylebook changed Web site to website. I then opened my Tweetdeck and noticed how everyone, again mainly PR and Journalism friends, commented on this change in the AP Stylebook.

For those of you who are not journalism nerds, the AP or Associated Press, issues a stylebook to explain the manner in which words and other grammar items should be in news articles and other printed media. For the longest time, the AP stylebook went against the rest of the world and made you write the word as Web site instead of the way everyone else writes it as website. This often served as a frustration for myself and any other journalism students.

It honestly amazes me how much has been written on the web, including social media sites, about this new change. I decided to Google this and I found this blog on Mashable about the new entry. On the side, it stated that the blog was retweeted 3042 times and was shared on Facebook 5437 times. This really shocked me! I think it shocked me not only because added together that would be more than 8000 times but also because I did not realize that many people would have honestly cared.

This also made me think about how social media helps spread news in a very short amount of time. I know people talk about how the news cycle is only minutes or even seconds these days where it used to be a 24-hour news cycle. I guess I just never personally noticed it before now. It is always cool when you see in real life the things they teach in college..

In addition, this made me think about how social media allows people the platform to share small tidbits of information. Before the invention of Facebook and Twitter, a person could share a small bit of information, like this change in the AP Style book, with those close to them like family or friends. If those people happen to not be in your field of study so they might not know and or care about this information. Now social media offers a platform to share interesting things with those in your field who know, understand and probably care.

Social media and its powers and effects continue to surprise almost every day.

Twitter, the Library of Congress and Doc Holliday

There are certain things in history that by name or date we all know by heart. For example, if someone says Hiroshima, then the picture of a mushroom cloud usually pops into everyone’s minds. If someone says December 1941, most people think of ships and planes in the Pacific. Apparently, in years from now when people say tweets, instead of thinking of cute little birds, they will think of Twitter.

From now on, the U.S. Library of Congress will archive tweets from the social media website Twitter. This decision from the officials of this 210-year-old institution made this decision because it takes away some of the elitist feelings that some have toward history. This feeling might come from the fact that often, only the rich, famous or infamous of the world get talked about. Now that tweets will be included, every person, no matter their station or prestige will be put into history forever.

At first when I read this article, I thought of how much social media has impacted and influenced our culture. Who would have thought a few years ago that anyone, let alone the Library of Congress, would actually care about the day to day musings of someone like me or the countless celebrities and politicians that use Twitter? It seems somewhat unfathomable that these 140 word micro-blogs would actually make an impact on this country. This just shows that even when a new technology seems like just a fad that will go away as fast as it came, it might actually mean enough to make it all the way to the Library of Congress.

The other thing I thought after reading this article was that the idea was not only weird but somewhat frivolous since it seems there would be more interesting things for the Library of Congress to archive. But then it dawned on me that it really would allow people of just about every walk of life, that has a Twitter account, will be put into history for future generations to see. This means that my tweet earlier this week about Stephen Colbert could be read by my children or my children’s children. Although that sounds a little creepy, it also sounds kind of cool at the same time.

With that idea, I leave you with a quote from Doc Holliday in Tombstone “There is no normal life, Wyatt. There is just life and you live it.” And now thanks to Twitter, that life will be documented for the next several generations to read.

Responsibility and Wisdom from my Mother and Spider-Man

As a child grows up, they are often taught by their parents to be responsible for their actions and to fess up to the mistakes they make. My mother’s personal favorite piece of wisdom concerning this topic was “Your sins will find you out.”  Even though most everyone is taught this valuable lesson, it seems that corporations and those that lead them do not seem to take these lessons into effect.

Take the Perrier water scandal of 1989 for instance. This water, which was marketed to be “naturally sparkling” because it was bottled from a spring in the south of France, held a fairly good portion of the U.S. bottled water market. Of course, this was until a North Carolina lab discovered large amounts of beneziene in the water. Benezine, a harmful and poisonous solvent, was found at about 4 times the amount allowed. As these stories seem to always go, the story does not end there. At first, the company, Source Perrier, claimed the incident was isolated to one bottling area. The company said an employee cleaned some bottling equipment with a solution containing this chemical. After this, the company recalled 70 million bottles of this sparkling water. To make matter a little more complicated, the company claimed the crisis was caused by employees not cleaning charcoal filters correctly. Once again, the company chaned its story one last time and stated that benzene is naturally found in carbon dioxide, which made the company finally confess to the fact that the carbon dioxide was used to make the water fizz and not the spring from France. The U.S. FDA required the company to remove “Naturally Sparkling” from all bottles. After all of this, sales in the United States dropped by large amounts and in the late 90’s when bottled water became “in-style” Perrier had less of the market than it had before 1989.

Would being responsive to the issues been better or would taking resposiblity for its actions been the wiser choice? I actually feel a combination of both would actually have been best. First of all, if the company had been responsive about the truth of the “sparkling” feature of the water, then the impact might have actually been less. The company could have taken the responsive approach by monitoring its processes and bottling practices closer. This action might have taken away the entire issue. In addition, if the company had taken responsibility for the issue and started with the truth, then the problem would have lessened because it might have actually been an isolated event. Basically, if they had listened to mother’s advice and started with the truth and continued with it, then the company might not have suffered as much financially and in its market shares.

In today’s business climate, it no longer seems enough for companies to just take responsibility for actions that cause issues and problems. It seems necessary for the organization to take it one extra step and be responsive to not only the operations of the company but also taking notice of smaller issues before they become a full-blown crisis.

I leave with this thought, since companies have the power to influence what we buy they hold a lot of power. In the words of Spider-Man from the movie Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Loving Public Relations

Last Friday I had the opportunity to shadow a professional in the field of communications and public relations. I was able to participate because of the Dallas chapter of PRSA, Public Relations Society of America, and an event called Pro-Am Day.  This event consists of students who are studying PR or communications, meeting and following around a PR professional in the type of public relations they are interested in for the future.

The professional I shadowed for the morning was the head of corporate communications for Texas Instruments, headquartered in Dallas. I really enjoyed the day because I was able to learn a lot about not only TI but also the field of PR. I learned that TI makes more than just calculators, including chips used in almost every type of cellular phone used. After talking with my professional, I learned how important different types of experience in the field is to not only getting an entry-level job but also to maintain a career in PR.

I also learned a lot about myself, which I definitely was not expecting. I knew I would learn the other things but that one I was not expecting. I learned that I really love the field of public relations and I very much enjoy hearing people talk about what they do and how much they enjoy. I realize this makes me sound kind of like a brown nose or at least a really big nerd but I honestly enjoy it. I realized that I liked how all of them, when I asked, listed several things they liked about their jobs, but not many things they honestly disliked about their jobs. I felt like a little boy who was listening to his favorite baseball team on the radio or someone who loves the trumpet listening to Louis Armstrong play “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.”

After talking with several professionals at TI, everyone who participated in the event went to a luncheon. As I was driving to the luncheon, while being very lost in the big city, I thought about why I would truly love this so much. And then it completely came to me. I like the idea of all my hard work getting a college degree to become a PR professional turning into something I will honestly enjoy going to go 40 hours or more a week. All of those late night hours studying for mid-terms, all of those hours spent writing, editing, and re-writing more papers than I can even count, will eventually become something I not only like doing but also something I will love talking about to others. I realized that as a graduating, college senior, the idea of having a real world, “big girl” job is honestly very  scary but will one day turn into something I willingly and happily wake up to do five days a week for several years. Again, I realize this makes me really dorky.

After all that I leave you, my lovely readers with this: I hope you honestly enjoy that which you do!

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