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 »

Transparency and PRSA

November 19, 2008
Jack O'Dwyer

Jack O'Dwyer

Journalist Jack O’Dwyer loves to criticize the Public Relations Society of America. In fact, he’s been so tough on them in recent times that PRSA forbids staff and national officers from talking with him. A letter to members (pdf) presents PRSA’s position on this media relations nightmare.

The standoff with O’Dwyer means little to the average PR person, but it’s important because Jack is the only high-profile critic PRSA has. Sometimes he gets it right, and yesterday’s editorial is one of those times.

The latest bruhaha

Point: O’Dwyer’s opinion piece of 11/18 (see complete text, bottom of this post) calls out PRSA for withholding the picture-1transcripts of its National Assembly meeting held last month in Detroit. O’Dwyer believes the document should be posted for review by PRSA members and made available to news media. Since the Assembly serves as official governing body of PRSA, publishing the proceedings would seem the “transparent” thing to do, and as it turns out, the laws of New York state appear to call for it as well. (Details in the editorial) 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 »

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!)


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 »