The world is getting dumber, or there’s something in the water in Northeast Ohio

February 4, 2010

If Jim Traficant wins a seat in Congress this fall, I may have to move. How could I live in a state of collective stupidity? That we’re even discussing “candidate” Traficant is downright crazy, and it has me wondering what’s happened to critical thinking.

Jim Traficant

You remember Jimbo, don’t you? He’s the former congressman from Ohio’s 17th District who spent the past 7 years in federal lockup, convicted of bribery and racketeering. He’s back, and a cadre of loyalists want to send him back to Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Ethics’ and ‘trust’ are driving readers to my blog. There’s an SEO lesson here, I just know it!

January 26, 2010

I’ve come to a fork in the road in my blogging life. Should I optimize this site, or should I just focus on content and let growth come organically?

When you come to a fork in the road, blog about it!

Why ask this 3.5 years into the game? Check out the Top 4 search terms that brought people to ToughSledding in the past 12 months: Read the rest of this entry »

On social change and the role of the PR professional

November 2, 2009
Photo from

Photo from

When the Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago, I was a 37-year-old grad student studying social change. Hey, I was a late bloomer!

Each week, as our seminar convened, my classmates found something exciting to discuss as we dutifully applied our sociological theories to the events unfolding in Europe.

Two decades later, I don’t remember much about those theories. Read the rest of this entry »

Plagiarism and other tomfoolery — You won’t believe this

October 23, 2009
Susan Getgood

Susan Getgood

Online pal Judy Gombita sent me a link to this post by popular blogger Susan Getgood. I’m not a regular at “Marketing Roadmaps,” but I am interested in issues of PR ethics, so I’m happy Judy passed it along.

In her post yesterday, Getgood tells us about a PR pitch that appears to have been plagiarized from another blogger’s post  — almost word-for-word.  That’s more than bad PR practice — that’s theft of intellectual property. Read the rest of this entry »

Three years ago, the 2.0 world was buzzin’ about ‘WalMarting Across America’

October 13, 2009

I cross posted this item at my new Posterous site — my latest 2.0 addiction. The event is significant enough to warrant broader coverage in the Sledzik Social Media Network. And I really need to get a life.

WalMarting Across America: Jim & Laura's Blog

WalMarting Across America: Jim & Laura's Blog

Ah, the good old days.

It was Oct., 12, 2006, and my first month as a blogger when I came across this story in Business Week. It involved Jim and Laura and the fake blog called “Wal-Marting Across America.” The story became instant folklore in the 2.0 digital world of PR and marketing. I wrote about it here — three years ago yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »

PR’s ethical dilemma: When should the chicken die?

September 10, 2009

As the old saying goes, if you want to make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs. But as it turns out, if you want those eggs at a reasonable price, you also gotta kill millions of baby chicks. It’s not a pretty sight, as this graphic video shows the world.

(Warning: Run time is 3:44, but you’ll probably get grossed out and quit early.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes you gotta realize that people are nuts, and build it into your PR plan

September 4, 2009
Photo by Alex Miroshnichenko via Wikipedia Common.

Photo by Alex Miroshnichenko via Wikipedia Common.

I used this story in class yesterday to illustrate how tough it can be to understand and communicate with publics in emotional situations.

Effective communication always starts with knowing your audiences and anticipating how they’ll behave. But what do we do, I asked the class, when your publics take action that seems entirely irrational?

“How many of you would refuse orders to evacuate your home if you knew a wildfire might engulf the structure and kill you and your family?” No one raised a hand as we reviewed pictures of Southern California residents standing up against the flames. Read the rest of this entry »

Student journalists and the Twitterati: Reporting on the spring riot from Kent State

April 26, 2009
Daily Kent Stater photo by Daniel Doherty.

Daily Kent Stater photo by Daniel Doherty.

Here we go again.

It’s springtime in our little college town, a time when intoxicated young men light fires, throw bottles and end up in the stir — 53 per the latest count. On the positive side, Kent State’s student journalists were all over the story that unfolded last night. You really should check it out. Details here.

Our student scribes were on the scene quickly, as they could see the College Street “couch fires” from their offices one block away. Excellent coverage — including these stunning photos — was up on KentNewNet almost in real time. NewsNet Editor Kristine Gill became the primary source for a page-one story in the Akron Beacon Journal and photos for that story were supplied by the Kent Stater’s Daniel Doherty. Read the rest of this entry »

Sponsored blog posts: Debate has returned, and both sides have a point

April 22, 2009

The “new” ToughSledding features posts on topics discussed in my classrooms at Kent State. This one supports a lesson on “conflict of interest” for a class called “Ethics & Issues in Mass Communication.”

Update, 4/23/09, 9:50 p.m. Wall Street Journal focuses on the issue of paid pitchmen in the blogosphere. Seems this debate is about to go mainstream. Could get interesting.

I respect the invisible wall that divides a newsroom operation from the advertising office. Sure, the wall can picture-21be porous at times, but credible mainstream media outlets work hard to ensure that marketing dollars don’t taint the integrity of the news.

Most of the time this policy works well. For example, credible auto writers don’t accept free cars, and trusted fashion writers don’t accept high-priced suits and handbags. To do so is a “conflict of interest” and violates journalism ethics. Why? Because freebies of significant value have he potential to corrupt both writer and message. Read the rest of this entry »

PR, ghostwriting, transparency, and the designated hitter rule — in less than 700 words!

March 5, 2009
I don't wanna hear it!

Earlier this week I wrestled with a handful of social-media purists who could not/would not acknowledge my arguments on ghostwriting and blogging. If you missed it, just scroll down one post.

Nothing I said or will ever say on this issue can change their minds. They’ve covered their ears, as we all sometimes do.

Yes, we all have issues on which we won’t compromise. No matter how reasonable the opponent’s position, we stand firm. And we often completely disregard contrary points of view to protect our own. It’s human nature. Read the rest of this entry »