Category Archives: Public Relations

First day of school – be honest

“Tell me why you’re here,” said my professor today at our graduate communication research class, “and please be honest. I don’t want the polished version. It helps me help you out. I know what it’s like to sit in grad school and have to make stuff up about what you think and why you’re in the program when maybe you don’t know.”

Always one to appreciate candor, I gladly listened as my seven classmates introduced themselves. About half of them were adults. They had jobs. Spouses. Beards. It made me feel more at home among people who also had varied activities. Despite attempts to simplify my life and really pare it down to what matters to me, I’m still going to be pretty busy this semester with track (or attempts to compete), cycling club (if track doesn’t pan out), working at the running store and, oh yeah, graduate school. But my classmates have their hands in other things too which makes school more interesting — tell me more about that film you’re making for your thesis! – and means that they will understand the stresses of being pulled in a couple different directions.

Throughout undergrad, it was easier. I was a student-athlete, emphasis on athlete. I was a PR major, and while I got good grades it wasn’t that hard. Even with full athletic prioritization, there was room to do a great job in school. The future was a dim possibility and finances, thanks to generous scholarships, were not a concern. Now though, I have a little more on my mind. Part of it is my fault. I don’t need this job at the running store, but it’s fun and it’s helping me save for next year, not to mention giving me a ground level look at running retail as part of the overall running industry. I also don’t need to be in cycling club, but since I still can’t run it is awesome to have people to workout with. The part of this whole being-really-busy scheme that is not my fault is having to think about the future. I still want to run competitively after college, but what form will that take? Worst case I’ll just get a full time job and pursue running on my own. Then that means it is time to start job searching. Wowza.

What did I tell my prof? Why am I in grad school? I’m finishing up my last year of track eligibility. I got a stress fracture in the fall though so I’m not able to compete, at least for indoor season. Joke’s on me! (I didn’t say it that sarcastically).

Anyway, this might be my last semester in college. Sic ’em, first days, honest profs and new classmates.

Baylor campus > any other campus

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Lessons from “Thank You for Smoking”

I wrote this for my negotiation class at school, but I thought if you’d seen the movie you could appreciate the lessons about negotiation (and on a broader scale, persuasion) I took away from it. By the way, my professor had our whole class over for dinner and to watch this movie. Baylor profs are awesome!

Now, for the lessons:

  • You don’t have to believe in the cause you represent.

Main character Nick Naylor faced a moral dilemma in his promotion of cigarettes, but he still did it. Whatever his reasons, he was able to successfully argue in favor of smoking. I don’t know if I’d be able to override my conscience in a similar manner, but this could come in handy in a situation where you had to negotiate for something you didn’t necessarily believe in (say, for a resistance point you thought was too high) but were ordered to by your boss.

  • “If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”

Nick said this in the film to his son to show how he persuaded people that cigarettes weren’t all bad. This is based on the idea that human persuasion can override facts. And if a situation is ambiguous, without a clear right or wrong, this makes persuasion even more powerful.

  •  Bribery, saving face

The Marlboro man didn’t want to take the hush money, but after Naylor showed him how he could keep it and save face (by not telling the media), he took it. Naylor also showed the Marlboro man how if he told the media, he wouldn’t be able to keep the money and save face. Everybody would know he accepted a bribe and judge his actions as immoral. The payoff worked and Marlboro Man was happy.

Obviously I believe using the bribe was wrong, but the part about allowing him to save face is useful. Think about how people’s reputations will be affected by the outcomes of a negotiation. Negotiating on behalf of their employer is probably not as strong of a motivator as negotiating for themselves.

  •  Creating value for both sides – negotiating for cigarettes in movies

The brief negotiation that took place between Nick and the film exec created value for both sides. They worked on how they would incorporate cigarettes into the project, and how much Nick’s Big Tobacco company would pay for the product placement. It was a creative solution to get more of what both parties wanted: exposure for cigarettes and money for producing the movie.

  •   Intimidation and insults – You’re not a chicken, are you?

Nick’s son Joey succeeded in convincing his mom to let him join Nick on the business trip only after a couple of insults, suggesting “Is it possible that you’re taking the frustration of your failed marriage out on me?” This attack forced her to agree, because if she still didn’t let him go, that would be admitting that she was frustrated about her failed marriage.

This reminds me of someone trying to persuade another with “You’re not a chicken, are you? Just sign the deal!”

But I think a wise negotiator (or a mother) who knew what they wanted wouldn’t be swayed by an argument so simple and disrespectful. It was amusing in the film, but I know my mom wouldn’t have let me get away with a line like that. She’d have kept her position, and probably grounded me on top of that.

In conclusion, we should be like Nick Naylor... sort of.

“Thank You for Smoking” has a dry sense of humor and I laughed a lot. Only drawback is a fair amount of language, but if you can handle that I’d recommend it! It’s always great when you get to do school stuff based off of movies. But I think lessons about persuasion are everywhere, and you can learn from anything if you think critically about it. Happy movie watching/ learning!

Summer Catch Up

I started this entry poolside at the Austin Motel on South Congress. My mom and I wanted to do a mini-vacation before I got back to school and we decided we didn’t want to even go anywhere besides Austin. That is some serious city love, folks.

We spent a couple days shopping on SoCo, running and working out (we have time to do as many yoga classes as we want!), eating out every meal, visiting the Austin Museum of Art and chilling at the kidney shaped pool here. It’s just what we needed; the perfect getaway.

Vacation is a lot more fun when you actually deserve it. I did because, for the first summer in my life, I was busy 40 hours a week. My schedule was pretty sweet, and even though I was doing two things I loved, the whole being-busy-from-9-to-5 thing was quite the draw on  my running, social life, close relationships, ability to run errands and overall stress. Welcome to the real world, I heard.

My two summer occupations were taking two graphic design classes at the community college here and interning at Flotrack.

Graphic design stuff
Wonderful. Four hours an afternoon, four hours a week with lab time included. Time consuming but fun – got to play a lot with Illustrator and Photoshop. I always knew I’d like these programs. I’m sure I only scratched the surface of their capabilities, but it was so satisfying to create my own artwork. I know I need some real art instruction too, but my most recent attempt at that, Drawing I at Baylor freshman year (charcoal and easels? What the heck?), was way too hard. Anyway, the instruction at ACC was decent and you can’t beat the price – about $500 for both classes. Sure, I could have taught myself but that would necessitate purchasing the Adobe Creative Suite and, even harder, making myself do the work. Much easier having a schedule and deadlines.

Here’s one of my projects. We were supposed to make a poster for an event, involving movement. I made mine about my weekly Wednesday run with my friends in Austin. It was one of the highlights of my week. Bonus points if you can tell which super fast runners I used for this poster.

Another fun project was this abstract composition – make a focal point! My prof said I had a good eye for color on this project. High praise! I have always loved color.I also did the blog design you are looking at now in my Photoshop class. For the rest of my projects, you can check out this album  on Facebook.

Flotrack
Also wonderful. I was an editorial intern for this start up media company centered all on running. This fits in perfectly with my job aspirations of communications + running. It was an honor to be a part of the company that I admired so much. I’ve been a Flotrack fan for a long time, thanks to their coverage of my chosen sport.

At my internship, I helped with all things writing – news releases, newsletters, meet coverages and articles, updating media contacts, and other small projects. It was great experience and on top of that a ton of fun. The Flotrack guys, if you’ve seen any of their videos, are fun and passionate about the sport of track. They are just like that in real life! Never a dull moment at the Flocasts offices, believe me.

It was also cool to be in an Austin startup (celebrated five years this summer) full of creative people who work hard every day for something they believe in. As a lifelong Austinite, I’ve always taken pride in Austin’s thriving tech scene, and seeing how that worked on a daily basis was inspiring.

Here’s a couple of the pieces I wrote for Flotrack –

Got to listen to a live teleconference with Ryan Hall, America’s top marathoner, then wrote about it. Also designed this banner that went on Flotrack’s front page.

Feature piece! My boss did this banner.

Conclusion
Both of my summer pursuits were great opportunities, I learned a lot, had fun and surprisingly, found an even deeper appreciation for my city of Austin. Maybe there’s good community colleges across the nation, but there is only one Flotrack  and it’s headquartered right in Austin. How cool is that?!

The bad things about this summer were that I allowed myself to be stressed too much about these obligations, plus getting in all my training. Like I said, it was also quite the stressor on relationships… relationships take time, y’all.

As far as running this summer, fortunately my awesome coach let me take it pretty relaxed. I did mostly easy runs and I went with friends almost every day. Running with the Flotrack guys was also fun – always something to talk about. The hellish heat and drought made me pretty angry when I thought about it, but most of the time I just gritted my teeth and got up at 6:15 a.m. Definitely not optimal training conditions, but it worked out ok. I had my fastest long run average EVER on the last weekend I was home. Last 10 miles of a 12 mile run were at 65 minutes! Don’t know where that came from.

Anyway, now I’m BACK AT BAYLOR – ready to tear it up my senior season in cross country. Stay tuned and Sic ‘Em.

 

Have you ever thought about how the principles of PR can apply to your personal life?

PR theory is intuitive – give people the information they need or want to know more about you and what makes you tick. Put your best face forward. Be open and transparent. Friendships and relationships form when two people begin to really understand each other.

Recently I’ve found myself labeling some of my behavior as PR functions. It’s PR about me to my “publics” – friends, future employers, or anyone who wants to keep up with me.

For example, this blog is an unintentional PR tactic of sorts. I started the blog to talk about race results and log recipes, but all the random people who read it and commented to me about it in real life (teammates, professors, friends from out of town) made me realize it was a vital way to update these people on my goings-on. They were people I knew and enjoyed talking to, but those I wouldn’t have ordinarily had time to keep up with. The blog suddenly became a way for them to understand me better. Reaching a wider audience through an online medium isn’t a novel concept, but having it sink in personally was interesting.

But the area of my life that most closely resembles textbook PR is my role in helping host track and field recruits. Year-round, high schoolers interested in joining the track team spend a couple days on a “recruiting trip” visiting the school, checking out practice facilities, and hanging out with the team and coach. The visits play a huge role in their decision about where to attend college. Every recruit gets a designated host, but entertaining and getting to know the recruit (and sometimes their parents) is a team responsibility. As the women’s team, we handle the female recruits.

Campus tours for recruits are only the beginning...

When I was a freshman and sophomore, I resented the time requirements of hosting these girls. My teammates and I had to spend a whole weekend entertaining someone who may or may not even sign here!

But this year, I started seeing recruiting as less of a burden on my time and more of a way to help.

In short, I realized I was doing some PR for the Baylor track and field team. If I had a job title, it would be “recruit relations.”

I can help my coach not to have to do all the talking. I can help my team by playing a part in getting new talent to decide to come here. I can help the recruits get to know the Baylor campus, or what a typical practice is like. On a deeper level, I can help them learn about the heart of our team and what motivates us.

Recruiting got a lot more fun this year! I started feeling ownership in the process. When I realized my hosting activity could actually affect someone’s college choice, I took pride in my responsibilities.

I haven’t always considered myself an outgoing person, but it got easier with all this recruiting practice. I can chat up girls from all backgrounds (though we at least have running in common) and even converse with their parents. From my own experiences and even my PR knowledge, I know it’s important to educate these people about my organization and make them feel understood.

High-school-Cate visiting Baylor for the first time - the official visit is what sold me.

It’s an honor to know I’m playing a part in young runner’s lives and their college decisions. I know it’s a big deal, because I was there once too.

Doing PR in your personal life and as a member of a group isn’t about lying or pretending to be someone you’re not. You don’t have to invent stuff to talk about. Applied PR is just openly communicating who you are and what you’re about.

I laugh every time I see a headline with the words “Tweet” and “Fired”

 

New meaning to the concept of "fail whale"

Post for PR class, but this is something I’d talk about on here anyway. I even slipped in a little less-professional (judgmental) comments for this edition.

I’m both amused and disgusted at how people keep getting fired or sued for posting inoffensive content on Facebook and Twitter. Not to jinx myself, but I’ve never found it hard to maintain my online reputation through careful posting, distinguishing what is and isn’t appropriate to say. I use common sense and simply don’t post anything I think anyone would find offensive, or anything that could make me look bad.

I see these lists like “How to Clean up Your Facebook Page for Job Searching,” and I marvel at how people actually need to be told to “untag pictures of yourself engaging in illegal activities.”

But apparently it’s a problem: there’s countless stories of firings and suings that stemmed from Twitter. A couple quick examples: there’s the guy who voiced the Aflac duck who made insensitive remarks about Japan, the guy at Chrysler who mistakenly posted a tweet with an expletive (meant for his personal account), and the AP reporter who’s under fire for his defamatory tweet (covered in Rachel’s post from last week).

I say skip the services and the “how-to” lists and let people maintain their own (personal) reputations. If they can’t do a good job, they deserve the fall-out after a bad post. Like the Chrysler guy: his tweet had an f-word. Freedom of speech is great and all: sure people can say what they want, but here’s an idea: how about you don’t post expletives on your corporate or personal account! Problem solved!

However, in the business and PR world, I’d recommend training employees on how to use social media correctly. You can’t leave your company’s online reputation up to chance. And content that is even slightly offensive is more serious, simply because it’s posted on a business’ page rather than an individual’s page.

Since I’m not tweeting for a company and my athletic prowess has not yet propelled me to the list of most-followed athletes (Shaq, Lance Armstrong), I don’t think my tweets matter much either way. But that doesn’t stop me from putting my screenname on my resume – at least employers can see I’m familiar with the medium. I’m proud of my online reputation.

Follow me - click for link

There’s a screenshot of my Twitter page. I like to talk about school, running, competing as a college athlete, and what I’ve been cooking. Sometimes I even quote song lyrics and write those vague tweets alluding to my emotional condition!