Fighting Trolls (Or Rhetoric on the Web)

When I think of rhetoric I think of argument. Raised voices, tense stances, and someone simply refusing to see the other persons side all come to mind. While this may be because of the political atmosphere that rhetoric is often discussed in, or because I was first introduced to the word from a frigid high school teacher who cared more about being correct than he did passing knowledge down to his students, it is a thought process that I have unfortunately failed to shake even with the many writing classes I have taken as a college student. I know it is more of an artfully curated “fighting” platform writers use to stick to their guns and persuade others into thinking the same, but the context of the word leaves nothing but a bad taste in my mouth.

When I think of writing for the web I think of trolls. No, not the bright haired dolls that somehow got themselves their own animated movie, but the kind that bash other people just to bash them. While I know this is not the only kind of writing that goes on the internet, it seems to be the kind that gets the most attention. Hurtful tweets and toxic comment sections are something any moderate internet reader will see on a daily basis. For every good piece of writing on the web there are a hundred bad things, making the good content a needle in a rage filled, side taking, and unconstructive haystack.

But, placing rhetoric into the idea of conversation based web writing definitely puts a different spin on both rhetoric and writing for the web. While the types and platforms of writing for the web are vast and different, they all have the consistent theme of trying to get noticed. For some that means favorites and retweets while for others it means an engaged comment section or high view counts. In a day and age where there is so much content being made and seen every day, it unfortunately also means that there is a lot of bad content being circulated, no matter the platform a writer is using. The thing that separates the content from being highly rated and quality conversation inducing verses trolling that will be under the bridge almost as soon as it appears, is the rhetoric. In a perfect world everyone would consider their audience, context, and message before they click send, submit or post. But until we reach that day, those who want to find content on the internet will have to fight their way to get it, using rhetoric as their north star.

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State of Mind: What I Learned from Going to College Out of State

When I entered into my college dorm room in the mid-August heat my freshmen year, I knew I was in for a world of change. There was a few things I knew would be different in the Tim Allen acclaimed “Pure Michigan.” The classes were going to be harder. The winters were going to be colder. The people were going to be more diverse. While I wasn’t wrong in any of these thoughts, there were also some changes that I wasn’t expecting. I was from a small-ish town outside of Chicago, so going to school three hours and two states away was far, but it really wasn’t that far. And then my roommate arrived, and  I realized how different these Michiganders were not only from me, but from my expectations of them.

There were hunter boots. Hunter boots everywhere. Slang terms like “Upper” and “MIP’D” were used like conjunctives, binding the people and branding everyone as a true resident of the mitten shaped state. Hands were suddenly maps. Maps suddenly contained a new phenomenon know as “Michigan Lefts”. Up north was more than just a direction, and a deep love of two college sports teams and their rivalry started more than one dorm lobby dispute. In a list these just sound like singular things, little nuances that could be just coincidental and similarities of my newly acquired college friends. But it was not. These people of Michigan were truly from and proud of being from Michigan. I know because they all said it, stopping barely short of fully kneeling down and praising the Great Lakes. I loved this place, but it was nothing like what I expected college to be like.

Now, why was this such a surprise? I went on a tour and did my research. Why was my college so different than what I thought it was going to be like? Was it because years of movie watching had conditioned me to believe in the frat ruling atmosphere? Or was it my own idealistic imagination getting the best of me, believing that the whole wide world was just like the small-ish town I left behind? In fact, it wasn’t this at all. It was because the university I chose to attend understood something that I didn’t until I realized it about an hour ago, two years after i initially decided to go there. PR is more than having a firm and clients. It’s something that every organization, person, or group uses in order to gain whatever they want. In cult like fashion, its getting outsiders to drink the school pride, academic focused, best time of your life flavored Kool-Aid.

I went to a school that is primarily made up of in state residents. I toured on a day that was specifically for out of state students. I went to an orientation, that was primarily focused on classes. I did everything you are supposed to do in order to make an informed decision when choosing a university, but was still surprised when I got there by the differences. I was lucky, and ended up loving it anyway, but I know friends and family who were not, and once they saw the university for what it was instead of what it was said to be, they made other collegiate plans.

I think this is why PR gets a bad wrap sometimes. It seemed deceiving and deceptive, placing yourself in a good light. But, I think this can change. I think that PR can be the vigilante of careers, and can be used to show people the good instead of simply hiding the bad. I learned a lot since coming to Michigan, but I think what I have learned most is that I think I found a career that I can do well in. I mean, technically speaking,its what lured me here in the first place.

 

 

PR Reflection

I think my views about public relations have really changed since starting this class. Being an AdPR major, I thought I already had a good understanding of the topic. But, I’ve realized that I only really understood PR in relations to advertising or marketing, and not as its own platform.This was actually the first full on PR class I’ve taken. before this class PR was simply an enemy in journalism classes, and a sidekick in advertising. It was never really the main issue, but always one I was interested in.  Having to do research and create unique ways of presenting the information myself through blogs really helped me understand the facets of PR, and why writing blogs is helpful in this field.

When looking at my starting blog posts, you can tell I wasn’t very enthused. Some of them where done last minuet. Others not at all. But, the first time I really go into a blog piece was when we had to write the blog on a PR crisis. I chose the Rolling Stone UVA scandal, and kind of fell in love with the process of writing it. I was able to see the project from a different lens, and it really showed me how applicable public relations can be from other facets of life. I was able to take a well known story and show that while the media were the ones who messed it up, it was the failings of PR intervention that made it a full on crisis that took several months, lawyers, and lawsuits to fix.

Since then I tried to make my posts more like something I would want to read instead of something I dread writing, and I think it helped me make great strides in understanding PR. I wrote about stickers and used the lyrics of a song I liked to guide me. That’s the great thing about PR: it’s about framing a situation. Understanding this let me frame the blogs the way I wanted to. But as I learned it’s mainly about one thing. The one word that causes a hush and dread to fall over the conference room: its all about the client. (gasp) But,before you focus on the client, you have to be confident in your own abilities. Once your confident, you have to work your butt off to get the client to actually want to work with you.

Going on from this, I’m not completely d sure if I would be ideal to work with a client just yet (though internships are always welcomed. There where things I could have done better in. I am guilty of not opening the book some days and merely cracking it open others. I fell victim to the ever so present black hole of procrastination, but always (usually) got there in the end.

My biggest take away is that I know that I can do work and make it into something I enjoy. While this admittedly isn’t my best blog post ever because finals are currently crushing me, I know that in the future I will use the knowledge that I gained through this experience to make the most shared article on Facebook ever. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Not really. But having an idea that goes on to be shared and utilized in any capacity is what I think makes public relations so cool.It allows you to be creative in a way that other careers simply don’t.

Overall though, this class taught me how to work in a group and use the findings to do your own thing. It taught me to stay on top of my own work. It taught me how to deal with difficult people, how to organize my time, and how to stay on task. Most of all though, I think it really instilled in myself that this is the major I want to be in, despite I really have no idea where in PR I want to end up. (But hey, baby steps).

I like PR. I like creating new ideas and figuring out how they can be implemented in a way that helps someone revamp or change themselves. I like the idea of selling a persona instead of actually selling an item. I like the different paths it can allow me to take. I like doing research and figuring out key components of where something went wrong and how to right that. I like it, and I think with some more experience I could be really good at it.

Moving forward, I know I will have to take harder and harder classes that may make me feel like this isn’t a good fit for me. But, one of my favorite sayings is “Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something you do care about is called passion.” I think I found a passion here.

Don’t Give Up: ROI in PR

“You Only Get What You Give” is a 1990’s pop rock classic that probably just sounds like a load of positive gibberish to most listeners, but I think the New Radicals were on to something. When it comes to most things in life, people tend to like to believe they get back what they put in. That’s why karma, motivational cat posters, and cliché sayings about work and reward exist. But, while this may just seem like a motivational tactic, the return given on anything-from a big project to buying a client lunch- is huge in any business, especially the public relations field. So, put on your headphones and let the New Radicals guide you into understanding the importance of return in investment.

Wake up kids. We’ve got the dreamer’s disease

First off, someone must understand how PR professionals use return on investment. But, this can be hard when sometimes professionals even have a hard time talking about it. The technical definition is “Return on investment (ROI) is a financial ratio intended to measure the benefit obtained from an investment. Time is usually of the essence in this measurement because it takes time for an investment to realize a benefit “(Retrun on Investment, 2007). It basically means that the bigger the dream is the more you should get back on it. For example, if you have a huge campaign in several states it should get more notice and reward than one that is only on a university campus. But this also includes the time and amount of people a firm spends on a project. It basically means the bigger a d But, it is hard to track in PR because so much of the field is turning to social media and more digital platforms.

We’re flat broke but hey we do it in style

Now, this may seem like ROI is more of a way of thought than an actual entity, but there is an actual calculation to find a company’s return rate, and it greatly influences the way in which they are able to do business. However, this measuring is different in PR. Often times budget money that could be going towards a working PR campaign doesn’t because company’s think a Tweet now does the same job that an entire campaign did a decade ago. But, social media has even expanded beyond this idea “As social media platforms have matured and their user bases have grown, the value they are placing on advertising through their platforms has increased as well. They have great products with large audiences, featuring key demographics. Their goals, no matter how altruistic on the surface, now include maximizing revenue ”(Coll, 2016). So, obviously social media is not free. This is hard because PR is often now thought of as an integrated media campaign or an event, which is hard to measure the success rate of because it does not follow an equation. In PR the goals and measurements must be set before the actual workings take place in order to be able to track them accurately. But, this usually doesn’t happen. Shonali Burke, the president and CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.  was interviewed about her thought in measurement and PR and said “that her biggest challenge in measuring the ROI on PR is that some companies sometimes think of measurement as an afterthought. Her advice is to bring it front and center. In fact, she doesn’t sign contracts until she and her client have agreed on the measurement goals they’re working towards” (Borchers,  2014).

No one with a brain is believing

Essentially, PR an ROI have a relationship that is still being written. Obviously companies and brands are going to want to work with professionals who they know can get their company back what they put into it. But, because public relations is a field that is constantly changing the way in which payback is measured also changes, and it is highly based on what an individual company wants. The New Radicals are in a way right saying you only get what you give, but you also usually only get what you aim for. While public relations is business, it is not like a traditional business in which it is easy to track and see outcomes. For this reason, the return on investment is not easily defined, even for those who have been in the business for a long time.

 

 

References

Borchers, M (2014, March 26) Measuring the ROI of public relations: Five experts weigh in. Huffpost Business. Retrieved from  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/molly-borchers/measuring-the-roi-of-publ_b_5021600.html

Coll, J (2016, April 2) Algorithms and the end of ‘free’ social media. Hattiesburg American. Retrieved from http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/news/2016/04/02/coll-algorithms-and-end-free-social-media/82538174/

New Radicals (1998) You Get What You Give on Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too [CD] MCA Records

Return on Investment (ROI). (2007). In Encyclopedia of Small Business (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 964-965). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX2687200503&sid=summon&v=2.1&u=lom_gvalleysu&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&asid=1394a2cf2fcfaf46a3849ef425a88b30

If the Shoe Sticks: How the Use of Stickers is a Valuable PR Tool

With election season in full swing it’s that time where lawns and SUV’s are slurred with political candidates make their appearances. It’s that time where powerful last names and the oncoming year slurred together seem to be everywhere on the street, and we have bumper stickers to thank. But, this practice of stickers has expanded far beyond just bumpers, now being a part of everyday college life instead of the current election cycle, and moving on to more mobile devices and items of students. Walking around on campus it is near impossible to not see someone with their laptop or water bottle decked out in brands and startups, and that’s just the way brands want it. There’s a reason why stickers work so well in PR, “The characteristics of this medium make it a suitable vehicle for communication, where the act of communication itself is the most important part” (Vigso, 2010). Communication is key in public relations, which is why so many startups and brands seem stuck on the sticker.

In the past few years many new to the market brands have taken to giving out stickers with their products. TOMS, the shoe brand made famous for giving a pair of their stylish slides to a child in need for every pair bought, is probably one of the most famous brands that have popularized this concept, but not the only. Everyone from GoPro to the GVSU bookstore seems to have jumped onto the sticker bandwagon, making it stick,(couldn’t resist). But there’s a reason for this: it’s about telling the brand’s story. As Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, put it, “TOMS was more than just a shoe. It was a story. And the buyer loved the story as much as the shoe”  (Mycoskie, 2011). A PR pro knows that half the battle for any client is being known and being known by the right group of people. So these little adhesives actually do a lot more than just cover the scratches on your MacBook: they actually get other people interested in the story their company is trying to tell, without much money and without being so pressing on students.

These stickers are appearing on college campuses across America. At the University of North Carolina a poll was done about not only the amount of students who use stickers, but why they do. According to the poll. 71% of students who took part reported that they have at least one sticker on either their laptop or water bottle, 69% only placing them on laptops. The poll also revealed why students use the stickers, with responses concluding with for style, to meet people with similar interests, to supporting their school (Green, 2015). No matter the reason why, it seems that college students have become inclined to label what they care about via sticker. But, this means that every college student has the potential to be a walking billboard for a variety of brands, as long as they catch the student’s interest. This is where PR comes in: get liked, and those who like you will support you.

Now, if a company is skeptical about the use of stickers they should be. It offers less control of who they get to associate with their brand, which could be harming especially to a newer company just starting out. But, this could also help a brand find out who is initially interested in them, and cater towards that specific demographic, hopefully helping their brand grow faster. This was the model that Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman used for their now famous website, Reddit. “This marvelous community of communities owes its existence to a massive advertising budget of $500. To date that is the sum total of money that has been spent advertising reddit. Five hundred dollars and every dollar of it spent on stickers.

Yes, stickers: the soundest investment I ever made. I used to travel around the country a lot (thank you, Chinatown bus), and everywhere I went I took stickers with me. I put them on signs, poles, and even other advertisements” (Ohanian, 2012). Ohanian then goes on to say that that the stickers showed a sign of allegiance for the first users, and giving them out to these for free was one of the main reasons Reddit has such a strong community today.

Stickers may not be moving from the college student’s laptops, and they shouldn’t move from the PR world either. Messages and communication are extremely important in the world of public relations, and no matter how childish they may seem, stickers seem to be a great starting ground for this conversation. Just don’t forget the goo-gone if a crisis where every to come up.

References

Green, Z  (2015, October 7). UNC’s sticky situation. The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from http://www.dailytarheel.com/blog/pit_talk/2015/10/uncs-sticky-situation

Mycoskie, B (2011, September 20) How I did it: the TOMS story. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220350

National: Public relations: Swap stickers to help force show children its face. (2007, October 10). Guardian [London, England], p. 11. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA169679506&sid=summon&v=2.1&u=lom_gvalleysu&it=r&p=GRGM&sw=w&asid=3c0a678a8fa3b9fc10e7d6fbd4a279ac

Ohanian, A. (2012, June 28). How Reddit built it’s empire on 500 bucks, stickers, and giving people what they want. Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/1841389/how-reddit-built-its-empire-500-bucks-stickers-and-giving-people-what-they-want

 

PR and UVA: The Case Behind the Letters

In late 2014 and early 2015 there was one journalistic case that was every PR student’s dream, every PR professional’s nightmare, and every college students warning of what could happen at those movie-like frat parties they all wanted to attend.  When Rolling Stone published a piece “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA”, all they intended to do was shed light on the every growing problem of sexual assault on college campuses, using one of the most known party schools in the nation, University of Virginia. What they didn’t know was they were in for a ride that would last almost a year and show how shotty journalism and lack of facts could cause a PR super storm.

Before we get to the investigations, lawsuits, and overall resigning, we should start at the beginning, way back in 2014 when Rolling Stone writer Sabrinia Rubin Erdely was looking for a college assault or rape case to be the focus of her story. She found a girl who was referred to as “Jackie” who was gang raped during the first few weeks of her freshmen year. “Erdely says she spent weeks corroborating Jackie’s account and finds her completely credible.” (Hartman, 2015) However, when looking at this through the proactive phase, a step was missed. It is important in any form of journalism to find more than one source or side of the story to clarify it, especially in a story dealing with something as personal as sexual assault. In the days after the article’s publication the public learned that almost no one else was interviewed or consulted about the story. “There’s another basic principle in journalism: Every story has two sides. In fact, every story has many sides. Rolling Stone decided to run with just one of them”(Farhi, 2014) If Rolling Stone had seminars or tests about journalistic guidelines and how they should be followed out, they could have avoided the entire situation. Instead they had a writer who basically only consulted a single source.

Rolling Stone obviously lacked strategic methods in handling the situation.  They had no crisis management plan because for a long time they simply avoided the fact that there was a crisis. At first they completely stood by their publication, disregarding the facts that surfaced everyday showing some of the plot holes. Once they saw there was too much against them they completely abandoned their source, saying she was untrustworthy and shaming her in the public. This was the first part of the react stage, but it was handled incredibly poorly.

Now for years journalism and public relations have been taught as one degree through they are very different, so it wouldn’t be an outlandish assumption to assume that the journalists would be able to handle any PR problem that came their way. But, Rolling Stone did exactly what every PR student is told not to do. When called out with evidence of their wrong doing they denied and denied and denied until it was impossible to deny anymore, so they blamed their source. “A journalist is willing to do nearly anything to find a story, lead or get an insider to give them the scoop.A public relations specialist works to cover-up any story which could put their organization, or an organization they work for, in harm’s way.” (Zelinka, 2013). Obviously this is false because while Rolling Stone went pretty far to get a story, they were also the ones putting themselves in harm’s way.

When the recovery stage came, it was too little too late for many. The police came out and said that there was no real evidence that the party or rape too place, but that didn’t mean something horrible didn’t happy. Rolling Stone recalled the story and apologized, Erdely apologized, and months later the managing editor Will Dana stepped down. While this may helped restore the image of the magazine,it probably would have helped more if it happened much sooner.(Hartman, 2015)

This was a mishandling of PR through and through. The magazine refused to own up to it’s mistakes and did so too late. However, if researching UVA they actually handled the situation pretty well. However, now Rolling Stone has several lawsuits on its hands. And to think this all could have been avoided with  a little help form the conflict management model.

 

References

Hartman, M(2015) Everything we know about the UVA rape case [updated]. New York Magazine. Retrieved from: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/12/everything-we-know-uva-rape-case.html

Farhi, P. (2014, Dec 06). How rolling stone failed in its story of alleged rape at the university of virginia . The Washington PostRetrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/1633967762?accountid=39473

Zelinka, M. (2013, Oct 02). The confusion with public relations and journalism.University Wire Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/1439830619?accountid=39473

Unearth the Research

When someone hears the words “public relations” they often think of social media, press conferences, and celebrities who just cannot seem to get their act together. But, before any of the big events, publications, or tweets can go into making an image of a brand or person, one very important thing needs to be done: research.

Research is often done in this line of work as a way to see how to handle a situation. When clients want help with re-branding themselves or improving themselves, they ask for answers. But what they forget to think about is why there are problems in the first place. The only way this can be found out is through research.

It’s not the most exciting part of the job, but its definitely one of the most important. “It’s important to know a client’s needs, target market, and available resources in order to draw up a good PR plan” (PR Friend, 2016).However it is definitely not always viewed as important even though it is known that research needs to be done, is will sometimes not be because of monetary reasons. Because it is something that professionals often have to convince their clients that they should do, it could be seen as an added task and not something that is needed to do the job right. But, when looked at specific examples it is easy to see why someone should research.

However, it is not as easy as a simple google search to find the information needed in PR research. Many studies have been done that try to pinpoint a systematic way to get the information needed in a public relations research project, and what questions need to be asked. (Watson 2008.) These studies are either somewhat inconclusive or have such broad results that its hard to see what the specific answers are. So, part of the reason that research in PR isn’t always done is because it does not seem to be the easiest thing to do. However, that does not mean that it isn’t beneficial. In fact events of the last two weeks prove how much it can help in situations.

Recently in the news there has been a water crisis in Flint, Michigan. This would have never been the national news headline it is without the public relations research that was done by Virginia Tech. “The team ended up making four sampling and public relations trips to Flint between early August and December of last year.” (Korth, 2016). Putting in the time to get the facts and put in the work to make other people aware of what was going on is why the water crisis is still in the news.

So why research in public relations? From looking into it more it is obvious research needs to be done but why? It’s not the easiest thing to do, and sticking to clever tweets is fun. But  research is the factor that takes something from being done in an okay way, and doing something perfectly. And in modern PR perfection is the expectation, not the exception.

 

References.

Korth, R (2016). Virginia Tech researchers fought for Flint in water crisis. The Roanoke Times. Retreived from http://www.roanoke.com/news/education/higher_education/virginia_tech/virginia-tech-researchers-fought-for-flint-in-water-crisis/article_56fb09da-9e6a-5e11-9085-b48893e2380d.html

PR Friend (2016) The importance of research in public relations. Retrieved from http://www.prfriend.com/research-in-public-relations/

Watson, T. (2008). Public relations research priorities: A delphi study. Journal of Communication Management, 12(2), 104-123. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13632540810881938