The teaching job at Kent State is officially posted…

November 25, 2008

…so pass the word, OK?

I’m trying something a bit different this time — a job blog for PRKent.

picture-11Why a blog?  Because it’s so easy, and I don’t need any geeks to give me server space or to figure out why my links don’t work. If you want to learn about the teaching job at Kent State, or if you want to apply, just click here.

Truth in advertising. A good friend in the ad biz thinks I may be overselling the benefits of this job in the original post — you know, the June, July and August time off and the funded pension. Maybe he’s right.

Our faculty at Kent JMC get along exceptionally well compared to most academic cultures. But we also work our butts off, grading papers on weekends and answering emails at odd hours — even tweeting with faithful alumni. Seems like it never ends — at least until May 15!

I’ll warn you: If you’re looking for 9-to-5, this isn’t the job for you. For the 9 months you’re on contract, it’s full-time and then some. But if you love the idea of helping young PR professionals get off to a flying start, I hope you’ll consider joining us.

Oh yeah. The goofy guy in the black hood?  He’s chairing the search committee. Humor him.


PR ramblings: The consequences of free speech

November 23, 2008

Last week, two of my Facebook friends joined “cause” groups on the social-networking site. One signed up for “DEFEAT Proposition 8,” the other enlisted with, “Stop Abortion!” I have a diverse group of online pals.

While the Internet is a great place for self expression, how often do you consider the consequences of flashing your politics in public? After all, people judge us by the company we keep — in the office, in the community and online.

cooperarmsIt was Dan Cooper who got me thinking about the consequences of free speech. Until a few weeks ago Dan was president and CEO of Cooper Firearms of Montana, a manufacturer of high-end rifles used by discerning sportsmen. But Dan also was a supporter of Barack Obama, and he said so publicly. I suspect many of you did the same. Read the rest of this entry »


Some positive spin on a nasty recession

November 13, 2008

Rather than mourning the demise of my 401K, I’ve decided to put some positive spin on the economic collapse. I am a PR pro, after all. And a PR pro can always find a positive story if he turns over enough rocks. In my case, I simply looked in the mirror and counted my blessings.

5 positives I found in this recession.

poorguyMy job is relatively safe. No job is totally secure in these times, but according to this story from MyEdu, education is rated the #1 employment category likely to endure these hard times. And there’s a bonus in it for me, since the #2 category is accounting, my wife’s vocation. This is such welcome news I’m thinking of buying a Hummer and extending my sabbatical until next June.

My university is in better shape than Harvard. Because Kent State’s endowment is under $100 million, we stand to lose a whole lot less than Harvard as the market tanks. Havard’s endowment is/was at $37 billion, and administrators there depend heavily on endowment income for operating expenses. Kent State does not. Read the rest of this entry »


Hanging out on Twitter for Election 2008

November 5, 2008

Like most Americans, I spent last evening watching the election returns. CNN was my network of choice for national news. I watched the local ABC affiliate for state & local races.

To add a little spice, I opened the laptop and bottle of Cabernet, then I joined the conversation on Twitter. It was a nationwide chat, worldwide at times. But most of all, it was a fun way to exchange information and impressions on the most historic election of our lifetimes.

I began tweeting at about 10 a.m., foreshadowing the Obama victory in Ohio based on 70-degree temperatures and “blue” skies. I would post 36 tweets over the next 15 hours, many of them reacting to others on the network and some just goofy random thoughts like this one:

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Read the rest of this entry »


A laggard returns to Twitter

October 30, 2008

It’s funny, but my friends think I’m a digital wizard. After all, I maintain 3 blogs and have a life in 6 social networks (not all are on FriendFeed). For a 55-year-old geezer, some think I am seriously connected. Now I add one more network.

After bailing out of Twitter more than a year ago, I have returned for a look around. And I like what I see.

This isn’t a post to extol the virtues of Twitter. I’m still learning my way around the application and observing the culture. Nor is this a mea culpa for my occasional criticism of “twits” over the past 15 months.

But I will say this: Twitter is more useful and interesting than it was in the summer of 2007, when I sampled it then dropped out. I didn’t get it then, but I am no earlier adopter. Today, I find on Twitter has a critical mass of interesting people I can learn with and learn from. It makes an old professor smile. Read the rest of this entry »


What defines the ethical organization?

October 26, 2008

I’ve been studying public relations ethics for more than 20 years and leading seminars on the topic for 15.

My favorite seminar exercise asks participants to identify organizations they consider “ethical” and those they consider — well — less than ethical. I won’t be naming the bad guys in this post, but I’ll describe the exercise and some of the conclusions I’ve drawn since 1993.

I call this exercise the “Ethical Organization.” Participants break into teams of 5-6 and spend 20 minutes identifying organizations the consider “ethical” and those they consider “unethical.” Teams establish their own criteria for labeling the organizations. We don’t define ethics in advance.

Each group nominates an organization in each category, “ethical” and “unethical,” and they list reasons to support their nominations. A spokesperson from each group then presents its nominees. As moderator, I post the names and the reasons on the whiteboard.

Over the years, the Ethical Organization exercise has produced a list of “usual suspects” on both sides of the discussion. Read the rest of this entry »


Redneck and proud of it! What’s wrong with this picture?

October 23, 2008

Unlike many of my left-leaning colleagues, I like to keep politics out of the classroom. Ditto for those thorny social issues. We don’t discuss abortion or gay marriage in my classes unless it’s somehow in the context of the day’s lesson.

Well, it’s a good thing I’m on sabbatical this fall. Were I in the classroom today, campaign strategy and communications would certainly have been dragged into the discussion. And I would almost certainly have been ranting about this…

Yesterday, at a political rally in nearby Greene, Ohio, Gretchen Wilson sang her hit song, “Redneck Woman,” after which she introduced VP candidate Sarah Palin as someone with that “same maverick attitude.”

I applaud the “maverick” label for the McCain campaign, as it helps to separate the ticket from W’s administration. And McCain has earned the badge. But “maverick” and “redneck” just ain’t the same thing, dadgumit.

To the gathering of her faithful here in Ohio, Palin opened by saying: “Someone called me a redneck once and I said, ‘Why, thank you.'” Read the rest of this entry »


Reputation grows from behavior, not PR campaigns

October 22, 2008

Surprise Update 10/27/08: Stevens Found Guilty (Duh!)

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What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

While reading this AP account of the Ted Stevens trial, I was reminded again that actions speak louder than words. The 84-year-old Stevens, longtime U.S. Senator from Alaska, is accused of accepting gifts from those who reaped the government contracts he engineered. Stevens said they weren’t gifts at all, and that the prosecutor has it all wrong.

From the AP:

But prosecutors say he had a history of accepting gifts — including an expensive massage chair in his Washington, D.C., home — and omitting them from financial disclosure forms. Stevens has insisted repeatedly that the chair was a loan from a friend, although it has been in his house for seven years.

”How is that not a gift?” Prosecutor Brenda Morris asked.

”He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift,” Stevens said. ”He put it there and said it was my chair. I told him I would not accept it as a gift. We have lots of things in our house that don’t belong to us.”

Yikes! Is it possible that an elected official can be this arrogant? OK, dumb question. But really, has Stevens maybe been growing and consuming some of that wacky weed allowable under Alaskan law? Read the rest of this entry »


Celebrating a Classic Case Study: ‘Building the New Lodge’

October 2, 2008

No one popped champagne corks in Lansing to celebrate it. And had I not contacted Jack Pyle, the 20th anniversary of the “New Lodge” might have passed without note. This classic public relations case deserves a retrospective. So here you go.

This isn’t the lodge where you gather after a day on the slopes. It’s the John C. Lodge Freeway (M-10), a major artery that connects downtown Detroit with its northwest suburbs. In the mid-1980s, the Lodge was a real mess, in need of regrading, resurfacing and new drainage. But when the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) proposed closing alternate sides of the highway over two years, many protested.

Closing completely the 9-mile stretch of highway would displace 120,000 motorists daily, forcing them onto surface streets or alternate highways. It happens all the time where you live, right? But thanks MDOT’s campaign called “Lodge-ability,” your highway department and mine have learned the value of public relations to support major road projects. Read the rest of this entry »


Symmetrical PR meets the ‘Cluetrain Manifesto’

September 25, 2008

Every serious student of social media must read the Cluetrain Manifesto. If you haven’t, it’s available free online. Many consider Cluetrain the seminal work about social media as they relate to business.

For a good many 30something PR and marketing bloggers, Cluetrain was the great “aha!” It described a new open system of communication that shifts the locus of commerce from persuasion and selling to relationships and conversations.

True believers in social media have worshiped at the Cluetrain altar for almost a decade now. Most books on SM marketing and PR that followed  took their direction from Cluetrain authors Weinberger, Searles, Locke and Levine. The book has stood the test of time, whether or not you agree with its premise.

Have social media altered the communication landscape? Of course. But while Cluetrain broke new ground in describing business-consumer relationships in a digital world, it wasn’t all that “new” — at least not for the more serious students of public relations. (I won’t speak for the marketing types, as PR and marketing are distinct disciplines.)

If you’ve kicked around the PR world as long as I have — as practitioner and educator — the central concepts of the Cluetrian Manifesto don’t surprise you. Fact is, PR began focusing on a “two-way symmetrical model” (2WS) more than 50 years ago — long before scholars Jim Grunig and Todd Hunt defined 2WS in 1983, and way, way before the Cluetrain arrived. Read the rest of this entry »