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Richard Bailey kicked off a fun meme about what a week in the life of a PR professor can be like, and Karen Russell contributed her plans for next week too.

Here is what my week looks like outside of teaching classes and grading:

  • Wrapping up a review of a few chapters of Shannon Bowen’s new public relations textbook. When a textbook is written, professors review chapters and offer the writer feedback before the textbook is published. Shannon’s textbook has an emphasis on ethics, in addition to business terminology and research.
  • Finalizing the research design for a PR pedagogy study with doctoral student Katie Stansberry.
  • Debriefing focus group experience with an honors college thesis student and checking in with two other honors college thesis students on their research projects.
  • Attending a webinar by the Plank Center about how to teach public relations ethics.
  • Checking in with the account supervisor for a team I’m advising for our student-run public relations agency.
  • Meeting with graduate student Kevin Brett to discuss survey questions for a social media ethics study we’re conducting.
  • Attending Dean Tim Gleason’s party for graduate students and their advisors.
  • Meeting with a graduate student to discuss summer public relations internships in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Writing a letter of recommendation.
  • Scheduling the last interview for a revision I’m working on for a study submitted to a public relations journal.
  • Completing a revision for another study submitted to a public relations journal.

Public relations educators and students, feel free to share your plans for next week.


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Ghostwriting on the Web

I’m partnering with Tom Bivins and Yoon Cho to explore the ethics of ghostwriting on blogs. Could you help us by participating in our pretest?

You’re eligible if you read a politician’s blog, corporate blogs or nonprofit blogs at least monthly.

Corporate blog survey:https://oregon.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_b321IkqCEuiLwP2

Nonprofit blog survey: https://oregon.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_8H5lDJ9gb4NYZ1y

Politician’s blog survey: https://oregon.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_1yJ77Eh18FEliGo

Completing one or more would be a significant help to us. Thank you so much!

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Gearing Up For Fall

This fall, I’ll teach a media relations and writing class rather than my usual J452 class, which means I won’t oversee student bloggers this quarter.

Here are some useful blog posts I found while catching up on my blog reading:

What Interviewees Should Ask at an Interview and What the Answers Mean by Josh Netzer

Confidentiality and Agency Life by Dave Fleet

FourSquare vs. Facebook Places by Niki Inouye

What You Weren’t Taught at University by Katelyn Mashburn

We (Carefully) Welcome the Class of 2014 to Fall Semester by Les Potter

I welcome one of your pitching tips for my J440 class in the comments section. Best wishes for the school year!

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iStock_000008369562XSmallOne of my students commented that “awareness” can seem like a weak campaign goal, particularly in contexts in which action is urgently needed. So what are the reasons for building awareness? Why stop there?

In public relations, a good campaign plan requires an evaluation component. Evaluation is based on a plan’s objectives. If an objective is to raise awareness, then evaluation of how successful we are is based on how much awareness we have raised.

This leads to three points:

1.We should not promise something we can’t deliver. When we over-promise and under-deliver, we make a good case that we are incompetent, public relations is ineffective, or both. This could harm our employment and our public relations budget.

In some cases, changing behavior is more than we can do. It’s much easier to raise awareness, and it’s a step in the right direction. How much we can inspire people to change what they’re doing is going to depend on the case. Having an awareness goal can be a cop-out when public relations practitioners are capable of inspiring action; the point is that we’re not always able to do this, so our goals and objectives must fit the situation.

2. People have the right to make their own choices. By making people aware of the facts, we have done our jobs in some cases.
We are not in the business of coercing people to do something.

Health Scenario
If some people decide not to floss, that is their choice. It might be our job to raise awareness about the consequences of not flossing, but ultimately, people can make an informed choice to do things that are not good for them, and that is fine in some cases.

Product or Service Scenario
We might not be doing PR for the best product or service. There could be a competitor that is better than us. Ideally, we will be able to have a seat with the “dominant coalition” (the informal group of decision makers in an organization) and persuade them to take actions that will make our products and services the best. Public relations practitioners are “boundary spanners,” helping organizations adjust to what people say, but some organizations don’t listen. If your organization doesn’t listen, you’ll likely have the most success sticking to awareness goals and looking for an employer who listens to PR people. At the very least, if you can demonstrate that your audience is aware of your product despite low sales, then clearly the problem with sales is not awareness. This can lead to a productive conversation in which a company does listen to PR people to find out what it needs to do.

3. Awareness can be a reasonable first step before tackling a goal to change behavior. In some instances, changing awareness is a triumph, and it can be a critical initial achievement that sets up future campaigns to influence people’s behavior. According to the extended parallel processing model, successful health messages require response efficacy (the belief that a solution is effective) and self-efficacy (people’s beliefs that they are capable of implementing the proposed solution). So health campaigns should always carry a recommended behavior, but it might take repeated awareness campaigns before people actually start doing something differently, depending on the case.

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A repetitive finding in my research, from my dissertation about an advocacy organization’s volunteers to my current study of Millennial agency professionals, is that getting along with the people one works with or volunteers for is critical to one’s satisfaction with a work or volunteer experience.

I serve on the board of directors for the Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope, an entirely voluntary non-profit. We give life grants of $5,000 for young adults with life-threatening illnesses to engage in a project that makes a difference in people’s lives. With our annual event around the corner, we’ve been in high gear.

What has been fundamental at keeping us together is that we’re all Landmark Forum graduates. This means that we have all been through extensive training in how to relate to each other, how to communicate when we’re upset with each other, and how to resolve the conflict and move forward. It makes an enormous difference because instead of having things build up as people continue to upset us, we handle things and protect our professional relationships.

Being confrontational is no walk in the park, but it’s much easier with training on how to do it, and it’s much easier because we all have the same expectations about how to handle a situation when someone makes us upset, what the person who is upset should communicate, and how the person who upset the other should respond. We rarely upset each other, but when we do (which is bound to happen within two years of closely working together), we have strong training in sorting things out, and it makes a world of difference.

What do you think about organizations providing interpersonal training?


Landmark Forum
(life skills)

Vanto Group
(affiliated with Landmark education, provides interpersonal training for organizations)

Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope
(our organization’s information and a place to buy tickets to our event)

Facebook Event Page for the Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope
(a place to RSVP for our event)

Facebook Fan Page for the Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope
(please consider joining)

If you’ll be in the Southern California area, I hope you’ll join us for our event on Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Here is the pitch from our fan page and our invitation. Our theme this year is a night of magic and miracles:

Ladies and Gentlemen! Children of All Ages! It’s Spectacular…It’s Fantastic…It’s for Charity!

Join Cameron Siemers and guest hosts Courtney Cox and David Arquette for an evening of magic and miracles at the second annual fundraiser of the Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope.

Be mystified and amazed by the wizardry of Magic Joe Reohm.

Thrill at the unforgettable spectacle that is the Zen Arts Performance Troupe.

Witness the wonder of Wisdom…Norton Wisdom and his luminous live paintings.

Come face-to-face with pure inspiration when you hear from our Life Grant winners.

Look into the future with our founder Cameron Siemers as he reveals what’s next for the foundation.

Come one, come all for an evening of breathtaking performances, music, dancing, appetizers, a cash bar, raffle and silent auction. Contributions support young adults with life-threatening illnesses as they fulfill a dream, goal, or project that makes a difference in their lives and communities.


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At Edelman’s Third Annual New Media Academic Summit, I spent the first day listening and taking notes, and I spent the second day live tweeting. Some of my colleagues and students expressed interest in following the twitter coverage, and I wanted to deliver insight to people who did not attend. I also wanted to see what it was like to live tweet an event to help me decide whether to have my large lecture class live tweet during some of my class sessions.

I found that I missed information by live tweeting. Thankfully, I could watch the second day sessions to see what I missed.

Why was Listening Interrupted?

While listening to the speakers, I

1. followed other conference attendees’ live tweets on our conference hashtag

2. responded to other attendees’ live tweets

3. tweeted and proofed my tweets

4. engaged in discussion with non-conference attendees who commented on my tweets

It is no wonder that I did not hear everything the speakers said. Les Potter identified someone with similar problems at an exclusive session of the IABC conference. His discussion of this detached live tweeter is worth reading.

Is Live Tweeting Bad Manners?

I also felt uncomfortable looking at my computer screen while speakers were talking. I think that talking to someone who is not looking at you can be difficult, and I felt like it was bad manners to be looking at my computer screen. Perhaps it would not have been so bad if I had sat in the back of the room, but I generally find this area to be noisy, making it difficult to listen to the speakers. I prefer to sit toward the front. In a comment to Les Potter’s post, Robert Holland referred to live tweeting as an “obnoxious distraction.” His comment resonated with my experience.

I like the idea of being able to discuss what speakers are saying via Twitter; I did not like doing it while our speakers were giving presentations.

I think it would be great for meeting planners to designate staff members to live tweet a conference for those not able to attend. This way, conference attendees would not even need to consider live tweeting so that others could follow the conference from a distance. Discussion via Twitter could be appropriate during designated break times.

I don’t plan to live tweet again. Instead, I will be fully present and listen. I can post updates to twitter during a break and write a substantive blog post at night.

What Do You Think About Live Tweeting?

Conference Notes

Videos from conference sessions

Slides from Richard Edelman’s presentation

Bill Sledzik’s discussion of the conference

Karen Miller Russell’s discussions of Richard Edelman’s address, a panel from the first day, and a panel from the second day.

Christine Smith’s discussion of the conference

Twitter coverage

Thank you, Edelman, for a wonderful conference! The sessions were engaging, and it was a treat getting to spend time with the participants.

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world health

(Cross-posted to PR Profs and PR Open Mic)

The swine flu outbreak is an opportunity to discuss basic principles of risk communication. Risk communication includes encouraging people to take preventive measures in the face of risk (anything from evacuating before a flood to taking daily vitamins) and helping people cope with risks, such as terrorism. Below are guidelines for risk communication.

1. Think through your word choice. Does the situation warrant the label of “pandemic,” or would “outbreak” be appropriate? You don’t want to scare people unnecessarily or have the opposite problem of leaving people unprepared.

2. Look for aspects of the risk to highlight, depending on whether you want to heighten or ease the sense of risk.
If you want to increase public concern about global warming, your message strategy would differ from what you would do if you were developing message points about the swine flu outbreak. Based on Peter Sandman’s research, people feel more comfortable with risks that have the following features:

  • People choose their chances of exposure to the risk (e.g., whether to travel to Mexico).
  • The risk is naturally created, rather than resulting from human actions.
  • The risk is easy to detect, such as an illness that has identifiable symptoms.
  • The problem can be eliminated.

3. Acknowledge uncertainty when speculating. For credibility, risk communicators needs to be accurate in their communication, which usually involves using tentative statements. Also, for situations like the swine flu outbreak, Peter Sandman shared the following sound bite with reporters: “Everyone needs to learn how to say, ‘This could be bad, and it’s a good reason to take precautions and prepare’ and ‘This could fizzle out.’ They need to simultaneously say both statements.”

4. Give people something to do to lower their risk. However minimal it might be, give people something to do to reduce their risk (see here and here for examples). When the Washington, D.C., snipers were in my area in 2002, I followed police recommendations featured in The Washington Post to walk briskly in a zig zag pattern. Even though I felt silly walking zig zag, I felt like I had some measure of control in reducing my risk. Also note that people tend to feel more comfortable with risk when they choose to expose themselves to it. Even providing the threat level for air travel gives people some amount of choice in deciding whether the risk is worth the trip. For more information about the importance of this guideline, see Kim Witte’s extended parallel process model.

5. Give frequent updates and repeat core messages through various forms of media. An example of this is CDC’s Twitter account (hat tip to the In Case of Emergency blog). Here is a quote from a communication expert I interviewed for my dissertation: “Nowadays, you have to over-communicate… The information doesn’t filter. We have nine or 10 ways of communicating.”

6. Consider cultural barriers. At the University of Oregon Conference on HIV/AIDS in Africa, Pauline Peters, a lecturer at Harvard University, discussed cultural considerations for HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns in Malawi. Simply telling people to wear condoms to protect themselves would not work well in this environment. Many people there viewed condoms as poisonous and associated condoms with illicit sex. A best practice in developing messages is to partner with representatives of the community to determine message design and delivery.

Interested in teaching a risk communication class?
Feel free to use my course schedule for graduate students as a resource, which includes a list of journal articles and other resources. We are reading two books for the class, which I strongly recommend:

I reviewed many risk communication books before selecting these two, and I also paid attention to book cost when making these selections. These books as a combination work well; their different approaches can result in rich class discussion.

I received an insightful comment from Peter Sandman to the PR Profs copy of this blog post. If the swine flu becomes a pandemic, the discussion points here will be important: http://www.psandman.com/ (see the top story).

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