Can a Selfie Actually Inspire Real-Time CSR?

In the case of Ellen DeGeneres’ famous Oscars selfie with celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt and more, the answer is yes. The selfie, posted by DeGeneres on her Twitter account, received over three million retweets and was a major highlight during the Oscars extravaganza. The huge response to this single image prompted Samsung, the product used to take the selfie and one of the sponsors of the event, to donate $1.5 million each to two separate charities selected by DeGeneres herself: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Humane Society of the United States.

Some questioned whether or not the selfie was staged by Samsung. The company however was quick to deny the allegations stating, “While we were a sponsor of the Oscars and had an integration with ABC, we were delighted to see Ellen organically incorporate the device into the selfie moment that had everyone talking.” It was, “A great surprise for everyone, she captured something that nobody expected.”

The spontaneity of the Oscars selfie, and Samsung’s charitable donation, has spurred questions regarding CSR programs. As stated in PR News’ recent post, companies can learn an exceptional amount from this moment by practicing more real-time CSR. Rather than spend copious amounts of time planning CSR programs, brands should attempt to achieve a more organic, real-time approach to what should be a genuine form of outreach. Not only can real-time CSR save time, but it can also have a larger impact on publics.

What are your thoughts about real-time CSR?


The Common Core and How It Can Create Change in Our Education System

In a recent New York Times article, the encouragement of the Common Core standards throughout U.S. schools is explored. These standards, which have already been adopted by the majority of states, outline goals for performance level in each grade. The ultimate goal is to move students away from multiple choice tests and instead focus on a writing-based curriculum. Common Core supporters hope the changed curriculum will promote reasoning skills in students at an earlier age.

The standards also enable continuous instruction and feedback for teachers by master educators, as opposed to yearly conferences. The Common Core standards seem to be a step in the right direction for our country’s falling education system, with California and Tennessee already investing heavily in the program.

According to the article, “California allocated $1.25 billion in the current school year for carrying out the new standards,” and the Tennessee Department of Education, “trained more than 40,000 teachers,” with the program.

New York is another state that has invested the standards in their school system, however without proper funding, the standards will fall flat in the classroom. The state Board of Regents has advised Legislature to, “increase school aid by $1.3 billion in the 2014-2015 school year.” The article also states that $719 million would go toward helping districts that are, “still reeling from state funding cuts related to the recession and a state-imposed tax cap that limited their ability to raise money.” About $125 million would go to an instructional development fund. Without this financial aid, students and teachers will be at a standstill.

These standards and programs focus on both student and teacher performance, which is extremely important; one won’t work without the other. With a stronger curriculum for students and constructive feedback and programs for teachers, the Common Core has the potential to create massive change in our education system. The standards are set, however without proper funding schools are unable to create change.

What are your thoughts on the Common Core being implemented throughout schools in the U.S.?

An Educational Infographic

This past week, my J452 Strategic Public Relations Communication class created infographics. I chose education reform as my focus for my infographic (shown below) and used Piktochart to help create my assignment.

I would advise anyone creating an infographic to choose strong visuals and a sophisticated font. For example, I stated different statistics regarding my topic (education) and then displayed these statistics visually. I also only chose two fonts, Helvetica and Futura, when displaying any text. I found these fonts to be sophisticated and simple; I didn’t want my text to distract from my visuals.

When choosing colors for your infographic, try to keep it simple. An infographic has a lot going on – different text, visuals and colors – and it is therefore important to keep your infogrpahic minimal so it doesn’t get too busy.

What do you think makes a strong infographic? Are there any tips you’d like to share?


The Future of Snapchat

In Mashable’s recently posted article, “Surfing Organization Rides the Snapchat Wave,” the use of Snapchat to connect with fans is explored. Currently, ASP, the Association of Surfing and Professionals, is launching its own Snapchat account, allowing the organization to immediately update and connect with fans.

Up until reading this article, I thought Snapchat was an unproductive tool used to send “ugly” faces (aka duck faces) or inappropriate photos to one another for the millennial generation. In fact, I strongly disliked Snapchat for a long time because I found it (in most cases) to be used inappropriately. After reading Mashable’s article however, my views have shifted.


ASP is using Snapchat in a sophisticated and fun way to better connect with fans. The organization launched its account only two months ago and already has over 9,000 followers. ASP not only has thousands of followers, but they also follow their fans back. This allows the organization to gain a personal connection with fans and better promote their brand. For example, Rookie of the Year, Nat Young, ran a digital autograph session on the account and was able to personally reply back to fans. This tactic was a huge success for the organization.

Nat Young, 2013 ASP Rookie of the Year

Several companies are following in ASP’s footsteps and are taking advantage of Snapchat’s productive uses. I once found Snapchat to be a useless tool, however I was proved wrong. Brands now have the ability to personally build connections with fans, send immediate updates and have higher control over its image.

What are your thoughts on Snapchat being used to help further brand organziations? What are other uses organizations can gain within the Snapchat app?

The Hypocrisy of the NFL

As several of you are already aware, University of Missouri’s all American defensive lineman Michael Sam came out as an openly gay man. This possibly makes Sam the first openly gay player in NFL history. While Sam has received general support from teammates and fans, many team scouts and general managers are hesitant to have Sam play because of the “distraction” he may cause in the locker room.

Michael Sam

The responses have been mixed, however New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been one of the very few executives to express support for Sam. Kraft is about winning, “And anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don’t care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference. If they can help us win, and they’re about team first, then I’m happy to have him here.”

The fact that responses are so mixed, and so few NFL executives have expressed support for Sam, shocks me. Several individuals within the NFL find Sam’s sexual orientation to be a “controversial” and “distracting” topic. How is it fair that Sam is receiving any form of backlash for his sexual orientation, yet NFL players have been involved in murder and physical abuse charges, DUI charges and more and it doesn’t hurt their ability to be drafted? It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.

Dale Hansen, the weeknight sports anchor on WFAA-TV and host of Dale Hansen’s Sports Special on Sundays, gave a profound response to the hypocrisy of the NFL:

Hansen makes an amazing point and will hopefully make the NFL rethink the kind of organization it wants to be.

What to Expect During a Job Interview

As I prepare for the application process of future jobs, I find myself wondering what to expect during the interview process. More specifically, I wonder what questions will be asked during the interview. I’ve heard one too many traumatizing interview stories where questions seem to be thrown out of left field and the individual scrambles to come up with the right answer. Similar to any recent college grad, I want to make sure I’m prepared for any question that comes my way.

Recently, PR News posted an article about great questions to ask a PR job candidate. I found this article helpful because it gives PR job candidates insight into what may be asked during an interview. Some of the questions include:

  1. How do you differentiate your writing for Web audiences?
  2. Where do you get your news? What do you like to read? (This gives great insight into how well they stay on top of news and trends.)
  3. Where do you see the industry going in five years?
  4. Can you describe and analyze how you handled the last crisis situation you were in?
  5. How would you tell our (brand) story?
  6. How does the role of social media and viral stories come into play when planning out a PR strategy?
  7. How can you summarize this story in 12 words?
  8. What are some of your favorite apps in the PR world that have helped you get a job?
  9. If an important client or executive asked you to lie for them during a PR crisis, what would you do?
  10. Have you read today’s newspapers?

Question five stuck out to me because I have heard from multiple individuals working in the PR field that it is extremely important to not only research the company you are applying to work for (that goes with any job), but it is also important to apply your research and skills to the company during the interview. You want to think about how you would help positively brand the company and how you would aid the company in more closely communicating with its publics.

I also found questions two and ten to stick out to me because individuals going through the interview process may forget how important it is to not only read about the company they are applying to, but to also read up on current events. PR employers want to see you not only invested and genuinely interested in their company, but they also want to see you feel that way about news and current events. It is important to be aware of your surroundings when you are in the PR field because timing is crucial.

What are questions you feel should be added to the list?

How to Become a Great PR Professional


Diane Schwartz, Senior Vice President and Group Publisher of the Media Communications Group at Access Intelligence, recently wrote a post on the PR News Blog regarding nine effective habits to becoming a stronger PR person. Schwartz stresses that there are three types of PR professionals: ineffective, good and great. Several are good, however good PR professionals will not create positive change in an organization’s reputation.

Becoming great takes hard work. According to Schwartz, there are nine specific habits to acquire in order to become great, which include:

1. Listen hard

2. Speak the local language

3. Read until your eyes hurt

4. Embrace measurements

5. Become a subject matter expert

6. Practice your math

7. Hone your writing skills

8. Master your Social

9. Be a PR advocate

One of the most important habits on Schwartz’s list, in my opinion, is habit number two: speak the local language. By understanding the language of the community you are serving, you will have a stronger campaign. Without this understanding, your message will be lost or misunderstood.

Another habit I find important on Schwartz’s list is tactic number five: become a subject matter expert. What I am currently learning in my core PR classes is to focus on your interests and passions. By focusing on what you are truly passionate about, you are better able to understand that specific area of interest. If you try to focus on multiple subjects that are all completely different from one another, you will most likely struggle to achieve a full understanding of each niche. Focusing on one allows you to become the go-to expert in that specific niche, which will ultimately lead you to becoming a great PR professional.

What is a habit you find most important in becoming a great PR professional? What are important habits you feel should be added to the list? I would love to read your feedback!

The Importance of Knowing Your Audience


Facebook recently unveiled its custom gender option which includes over 50 different subcategories of gender. Not only is this a positive step for individuals who may not solely identify as male or female, but it is also an important step in the way Facebook communicates with its audience. (Other organizations take note; this can be an important lesson.)

Several organizations can lose sight of who their target audience is, what their interests are and how they identify themselves. As a communicator, it is important to not only know your audience, but to know them well. If you stumble to understand this information, there is the possibility you are alienating a current, or future, client. By providing more options and catering to publics that use your product, organization, etc., you will have a happier client.

“Over the past few years, a person’s Facebook profile truly has become their online identity, and now Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves,” said Chad Griffin, president of the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign.

Knowing your audience also plays a large role in an organization’s brand. For example, Facebook wants its users “to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self.” Facebook is branding its organization in a way that is accepting and understanding of all individuals; it is a trustworthy brand that allows you to be yourself.

Do you think Facebook is communicating with its audience effectively?


Reinventing the Disney Princess


Jewel Moore, a junior in high school from Farmville, Va., recently posted a petition on asking Disney to create plus-size Disney princesses. Moore’s call to action stems from wanting young girls, such as herself, properly reflected in the popular Disney franchise. If Disney were to take action and reinvent the Disney Princess, there is high potential it would create stronger self-confidence in young girls.

Moore’s petition has already collected close to 26,000 signatures, and although there is no specific cap in order for Disney to take action, they are aware of the petition because they receive an email each time someone signs their name.

I completely admire and respect Moore for creating this petition and agree that Disney should do a better job in representing girls and women of all shapes and sizes. For several years, Disney has created the same type of princess – Caucasian and thin. Although Disney has had moments of creating princesses that are strong-willed, independent and intelligent, these traits tend to surface as the princess has received a marriage proposal. It would be amazing to see more diversity in the Disney franchise and for young girls to have heroins to look up to who don’t need to be saved by a man. Disney has made positive strides towards creating a more progressive Disney Princess, however there is still more to be done. I’m happy Moore’s petition has reminded others of this as well.

What are your thoughts on reinventing the Disney Princess?

Overcoming Your Limitations

Temple Grandin is a cattle scientist first and autistic second. She is not defined by autism, rather she embraces her differences from others and utilizes her strengths to the utmost degree. Grandin credits her family for always being supportive of her passions and encouraging her to pursue her talents that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

In the 1950s, and at the age of two and a half, Grandin was taken to a neurologist after experiencing developmental delays. The neurologist told Grandin’s mother that she had brain damage and would never live a normal life. It wasn’t until age three and a half that Grandin spoke her first word. As Grandin became older, she became fixated on three things: 1) model rockets, 2) electronics and 3) horses.

Grandin’s obsessions and thought process were different than most children her age. Grandin describes herself as a photo realistic visual thinker; she thinks in pictures. For example, if her mother told her to stop, Grandin focused on the key word and a picture of a stop sign appeared in her mind. However, it’s not just any stop sign, it’s a specific stop sign that may be from 10 years ago. Her thoughts in pictures are extremely detailed and ultimately lead to other thoughts in the form of pictures. Grandin doesn’t see the words, she sees the pictures.

As a photo realistic visual thinker with a passion for animals, it was only natural that Grandin would revolutionize the cattle industry in North America because of her brain and the way it works.

Grandin visited a cattle ranch one day and noticed that the cows were extremely frightened every time they were pushed through channels on their way to the slaughterhouse. Grandin also noticed that there was a flag blowing in the wind and immediately concluded that cows do not like rapid movement and high contrast. From this conclusion, Grandin created a geometric series of channels and pathways to help the cows enter the slaughterhouse smoothly and without fear. Over half of the slaughterhouses in North America now use Grandin’s humane creation.

As someone who was once labeled as having brain damage, Grandin embraced her differences from those around her and pursued her strong passions. Individuals with autism can be labeled, rather than encouraged to embrace their different ways of thinking. One of the moments I loved most during Grandin’s TED Talk is that any time a child comes up to talk to her about being autistic, she encourages the child to talk about a passion they have, rather than autism. Grandin wants to help develop autistic children’s strengths, rather than focus on their weaknesses. This allows the child to grow and move past the limitations that have been set out for them. Grandin has accomplished many things in her life as a result of embracing her different way of thinking and never feeling as though she has limitations in life. This is something we can all learn from in life.