Fab Five

I thoroughly enjoyed Public Relations as a class. I had not given the profession much thought or research up until now, so being able to contextualize the profession and put it in perspective has been a lot of fun. However, the five things that I learned the most about are:

Time management – A PR professional must be timely. Every one of the guest speakers repeated how crucial time management skills are in the daily lives. Crises can always arise from a benign situation, and catching them early is key. This leads to what I learned about crisis management, which will be discussed later.

Team management – Being able to delegate is a very important team skill, especially if one is, in essence, the group’s leader. To be frank, I did not delegate enough work amongst my group, and largely did not feel that I demonstrated effective team management. We pulled everything together and provided a worthwhile final product, but the whole project could have gone more smoothly

Crisis management lifecycle – Fix problems before the world catches hold and blows them out of proportion. The rest of the steps are important, but if they can be avoided, then everything is just that much less complicated and costly.

Ethics are sometimes a grey area – Ethical questions should be considered very carefully. Some issues that seem immediately obvious are not always that way, and need careful inspection.

Keeping current is what a PR professional must do well – This isn’t just as simple as watching the news. Think about the news, interpret it. To forecast popular trends, media is exceptionally important, as it is often a catalyst for public opinion. Knowing where public opinion is swaying could be useful for clients, or one’s own career.

Overall, the course was very engaging. Public Relations seems like an exciting career, though a busy one, as well. I was glad for the group experience, as it taught me how to work better with a team, and manage my time more efficiently.

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Revelry

revelry |ˈrevəlrē|noun ( pl. -ries) (also revelries)lively and noisy festivities, esp. when these involve drinking a large amount of alcohol : sounds of revelry issued into the night | New Year revelries.

Since the current event presentations are finished and Public Relations campaign presentations are beginning, I feel that it is time to consider what the class has been presenting, and I will be using the word defined above to help me.

On first inspection, I imagine that using “revelry ” in a post about school would mean that the class is rejoicing now that projects are finishing up and the semester itself is drawing to a close.  I would like to spin things in a slightly different direction.

Dead giraffes.  Oil spills.  Murder and hijackings.  Not exactly news stories to revel in, and most of the group projects are coming up the same; they all relate to a problem that needs to be fixed, or at least a news-worthy item that is contentious or controversial.

This isn’t to say that solving problems is a bad thing.  Public relations (and marketing, in general) are largely about solving problems, whether they are corporate or consumer problems.   Also, human beings are well known for their ability to solve problems and answer complex questions.

Well.  Some of us are.

I could deride poor Miss Carolina for what she said, but that would be tremendously unfair.  Given the level of competition that she was in, it is easy to understand that she was under quite a lot of stress, and I am willing to bet that she had not been briefed on how to answer that particular question.  It is also possible that she did not fully understand the question.  Regardless, her problem-solving sills were evidently impacted in a negative fashion, and I could speculate for hours on exactly why she fumbled the question, but that would be entirely moot.

What I will speculate on is the quality of the publicist who briefed her before the competition.  I don’t follow the “Miss Universe” contest, but I understand the premise, and also understand that any of the girls who go on stage will have given rigorous training: how to walk, how to stand, how to smile, how to answer questions, what questions to expect; the list goes on.  There is a generally held belief that American citizens are not experts on the world outside their borders, and I am quite shocked that she did not have a scripted answer to the question, or that, if she did, that her answer fell apart so quickly.

But here I am, discussing the misfortune of another human being.  This brings me back to my original thought; revelry.  It always seems so much easier to talk down to people and their actions than it does to lift up those who are successful.  It is almost as if we, as a species, revel in the failure of others more often than their success.

Of course the news media will publish whatever story they wish, and it is a fact that bad press sells newspapers easier than good news, but therein lies a derisive topic.  It is very easy to accuse news providers of sensationalism, or only reporting bad news, or any one of a hundred other things that make them into the “big bad news companies”.  They are still a business, like any other, and so if they realize that one type of story sells better than other, you’re darn right they will use those stories more often, and it is their prerogative to do so.

So does that make it easier for the listening public to see failure?  Does that create an expectation in their minds that failure is expected, or even that the critique of failure is required?

Anyway, I seem to be drifting off topic here, so let me bring it back to Earth.  Do we revel in success often enough?

I know that I don’t.  I have been a cynic since middle school, and events that have occurred in the past couple years have left me with only deeper cynicism.  I find that my classmates’ cynical attitude towards some instructors “rubs off” on me, even if I like the instructor.

Is my generation becoming so used to negativity that, when those we consider colleagues or friend us are negative, we just follow?

I don’t know the answer.  I wish I did.  However, until I do know, all I can do is try my best to chase the cynic from my mind with a bit of good ol’ rock n’ roll revelry.

Good night, internet; revel in some rock before you go to sleep:

Occupational Hazard

Ahh, my mighty BlackBerry to the rescue. All the computers in my house could not help me get this post together. Horray for technology, no?

Anyway, on to the content you’re actually interested in reading…

It appears that the proverbial hammer is beginning to fall on some of the “Occupy” protesters in the United States.  It is inevitable that some of the protesters will get in some kind of trouble, legal or otherwise, given any protest’s ability to draw out extreme reactions.  Personally, I haven’t heard of any of the “Occupy” protesters becoming violent or causing all kinds of silly and avoidable damages as with the London protests that turned to violent clashes and the simply embarrassing and frankly pathetic hockey riot in Vancouver, so it appears that the people there on Wall Street are being careful.  That said, both those appear to be different than “Occupy”, as opportunistic thugs with no future and a penchant for stealing what they cannot afford have been replaced with a disenfranchised younger generation that would like to see more equity between the various classes of society. There are numerous videos on YouTube that show what is going on between police and protesters, but the one I like is described YouTube user BklnJHandy as “United States Marine Corps. Sgt. Shamar Thomas from Roosevelt, NY went toe to toe with the New York Police Department. An activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement, Thomas voiced his opinions of the NYPD police brutality that had and has been plaguing the #OWS movement.” Though the video is lengthy, the Marine makes a very good point: “These people are Americans and we are in America.” Protests happen, and protesters always get hurt. I doubt I’m wrong in saying that men and women of the same country should not waste time hurting one another. It’s inhuman, rude, and not very productive.

However, the falling hammer that I mentioned has nothing to do with what social group the protester/rioter comes from, and more to do with their job and the ethics surrounding said job.  Al Jazeera English reported in this article that “…a reporter carrying a sign protesting financial fraud was fired when her editor saw her picture at Occupy Wall Street. The website Boing Boing commented:

‘Surprisingly many people support the firing, on the basis that journalists shouldn’t “advocate a political viewpoint”. Putting aside that such an objection should only apply to actual reporting, since when did opposing rampant financial fraud become a “political viewpoint”? Around here we always thought it was just plain old common-sense, law-and-order, foundation-of-civilisation advocacy.'”

Honestly, I can see where the employer is coming from on the ethical question of the profession that their employee is a part of, as well as the ethics of the protest.  As much as this woman was attempting to protest the protection of companies whose finances are fraudulent, her face will forever be captured in a photo, which will then be tied to her journalistic work and, thus, the company she works for.  I imagine that the CEO was concern about portraying a specific and well-groomed image to the public, which is entirely understandable.  It is also fair to say that, in a general sense, journalists do have a responsibility to be unbiased by politics in their articles, presenting honest facts 

However, that is not to say that I agree with firing the woman.

She was exercising a right to freedom of peaceful assembly and protest.  She was not writing a very flattering article about the protest.  She was there on her own time, not company time.  She was in a protest representing a political viewpoint, but was protesting fraudulent corporations, not political agenda.

So, was there really a reason to fire her?  Is there a clause in her employment contract limiting what she is allowed to say about financial fraud?  Is the company’s image so well-groomed that it cannot be tied to fairly dealing with fraudulent corporations?  Did she not bring the boss donuts earlier that week?

Truly, who knows?  Only the woman in question and her employer.

Of course, I have made some assumptions about the woman’s involvement in the protest, but is the ethical message that employers want to give employees that protesting a prominent issue that needs attention is taboo? 

Growing Pains

It seems the world is starting to grow distasteful of the establishment.  I bet your first thought is that I’m referencing what is often called the Arab Spring, but I’m actually aiming a bit closer to home; New York, to be specific, though some would say that the two movements are connected.  There has been a growing level of support for a movement known as Occupy Wall Street, which is calling for its members to, literally, occupy Wall Street to protest social inequities and the influence of money on politics.  As a business student, this fascinates me.  I know that, in the past, it has been shown that money greases political palms better than anything else, and by watching the Unites States’ senate fight like a group of pathetic and insolent children over corporate taxation, it would seem obvious that liberal amounts of grease are being applied.

Of course, that could just be a trick of perception.  Young and disenfranchised members of society always need an outlet for their frustrations, and any government is very easy to blame.

Personally, I see this as a two-fold issue, at least from the corporate perspective.  First of all, there is a public relations issue.  A growing public no longer believes what a corporate author says at face value, which has led it to the second problem; the question of ethical behaviour and socially acceptable standards of doing business.  In the past, it may have possible for a strong PR campaign to soothe worries of protesters, but I think there is something different about this.  This public feels that its basic rights, freedoms and quality of life are all being threatened by corporate governance and what they feel is a general disregard of social responsibility.  Aside from the usual than arresting and pepper spraying protesters, it will be interesting to see how (or if) any members of Wall Street’s corporate world react to these events.  It would certainly be nice to see a shift in corporate policy towards a bit more of a “we all swim together or we all sink together” mentality.

Technical difficulties?

Welcome to my Business 225 WordPress blog. It would be more elaborate if I could get the WordPress website to load in my laptop’s web browser; however, I still have my smartphone.

Speaking of which, I was watching Research in Motion’s stock prices earlier this week, which seem to be in worsening territory. As much as I know that Android phones are easy to use and the iPhone is pretty, but without my BlackBerry, this block of text wouldn’t even be here. Personally, I don’t like touch screen phones, so that rules out the iPhone and a majority of smartphones sold with Android installed, plus lots of rich internet browsing and apps that let me edit all my documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. I think Research in Motion deserves better; any thoughts on that?