Dress Your Best

I walked into a room of people wearing suits, ties and high heels. I was wearing my best, most tasteful dress for the evening. I had my hair done up, earrings in and a slight bit of perfume. Then, I saw her. She was wearing the shortest dress I’d seen in years. It wasn’t just short on the bottom, but looked like someone ran out of material when they were making the dress. She was evidently uncomfortable.dress No wonder. That kind of outfit is for the nightclub, not a public relations networking event. She was the center of attention, but not in a good way. Everyone would talk about her behind her back. They would whisper as she walked by. They would stare. Actually, they would glare.

Why was wearing this dress such a big deal? It mattered so much because there is a certain way to dress in the field of public relations. In all reality, there is a general code of dress for any business event in the professional world.  However, in public relations, where our job centers on the perception of the company, we should be aware of the way others perceive us. One article rightly reminded that the way we dress impacts the way people view us. The way you dress at an event shows your level of respect. Your outfit is a representation of you, but as Neil Kokemuller pointed out, it’s also a representation of the company you represent. That young lady in the revealing dress was not giving her company a good representation. I’ve seen many tips for what to wear at a business event, but here are the one’s I’ve found most advantageous.

  1.      Dress fashionably, but conservatively.

You are not at this event to pick up someone to take home. You are here as a professional to network and enjoy the evening. You don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. One article went so far as to say, “Modesty is a virtue.”

  1.      Bring an extra bag of rescue items.

My professor gave me this excellent advice. These rescue items aren’t what you’d find in a fire engine. These are items that will save you in the case that your panty hose rip, or your seam tears. It not only keeps you from getting embarrassed, but will give you an added level of security.

  1.      Don’t wear too much perfume or makeup.

I don’t know if they forgot to take a shower and are wearing it for cover, or if they just have no sense of smell, but I have been to too many events where the ladies have worn too much perfume. I do not enjoy talking with ladies who smell like they walked out of Hollister. Not necessarily because of the Hollister perfume, although that is also terrible. Rather, they are wearing so much. It is distracting. When I talk with someone, I want to listen to what they’re saying rather than concentrating on how much they’ve overwhelmed my nose. One author wrote, “Someone should not be able to smell you unless they come in for a hug.”  Just a small amount should suffice for the entire evening. If you’re worried about it fading, just bring it with you in that emergency kit and reapply. Warning: only reapply if you really need to.

When it comes to makeup, there is an entire list of ways you should and shouldn’t wear makeup in the professional field. For example, the Huffington Post has an article with 12 tips. You can read it for yourself, but I’ll mention my three favorites. First, don’t wear something fake, like fake eyelashes. Second, keep your nails trimmed and clean. This also means that nail polish should be chip-free. Last, make sure it doesn’t look like you caked on makeup. It also helps to wear makeup that matches your skin tone. I cannot stand it when I see someone with a foundation line because it doesn’t match their skin color.

  1.      Don’t wear too much jewelry.

When ladies wear lots of bracelets, huge necklaces, or ginormous earrings, it looks gaudy. Just like the perfume, it is distracting. Instead of looking at your face, or listening to what you’re saying, people are staying at your ornaments. A tasteful amount of jewelry is best. Tasteful means a small amount, just in case you were wondering.

There are a plethora of other tips available on the Internet. If you are unsure of what is and is not appropriate, I encourage you to go look up a few articles. Although it may seem shallow, what you wear and how you appear to people in the physical makes a large impression. Ask yourself what kind of impression you want to leave. Then, make decision on what to wear based on that desired impression. Just remember, err on the side of caution.


To Plan, Or Not to Plan

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetOver spring break, I got engaged. What do you think was on my mind? Honestly, there were so many things running through my head I don’t remember them all. However, I can tell you that I wasn’t thinking about all the planning I’d have to do. My mother and I are working to book a venue, set up the engagement photo shoot, figure out what kind of invitation to send, and so much more. I even bought a beautiful notebook from Target to write out all my plans. Don’t ask me why, but I like to write everything down by hand when I do initial planning. I suppose it seems more tangible.

As I have gotten to the planning stage of my wedding, I started getting overwhelmed at the number of details. Not only am I hopefully graduating from college in May, working as an intern at the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Dallas and as a Starbucks barista, I am now planning my wedding. Then it hit me. I do planning all the time. Granted, it is for a different purpose, but public relations planning is similar and just as important as wedding planning.

Planning is the foundation of everything we do in public relations. Melissa Liton of Communique PR wrote an entire blog post on the importance of planning in public relations. She ended the post by saying that planning will ultimately determine if public relations efforts will work or not. This is just like wedding planning. It is the largest determining factor of whether a wedding is terrible or wonderful.

In addition, good planning in public relations should always be based on solid research. Author Steven Symer noted that research is essential because it helps practitioners make informed decisions. In planning my wedding, I am not going to pick out a venue, a dress or anything without first looking at different options and researching the alternatives. Doing public relations planning without research is just as stupid as buying a wedding dress you have never tried on.

I am sure you have heard of it, but in public relations, there is a process I have hinted to. It is called the communications process. It consists of research, planning, communication and evaluation. Planning gives you an avenue through which to evaluate all your efforts. Granted, when I am at my wedding, my evaluation will simply be if it went well and everyone had a good time. In public relations, evaluation of the campaign is vitally important because it validates PR efforts. James Grunig explained that planning helps with the bottom line because it reveals what is most important. Planning helps you achieve goals.

Take a moment and imagine what life would be like without planning. Nothing would ever get done, and if it did, it would be a mess. You would have no direction. You would have no goal. You would be aimless. That is not the kind of world I would want. It sounds like a nightmare. Thankfully, that isn’t our world. Now, I’m off to plan my wedding. Wish me luck!









It’s Not Just About Pet Peeves

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At the Mayborn School of Journalism, professors have their own unique set of grammar pet peeves. Professor Fuse hates, and I mean hates, sentences beginning with dead construction. Professor Bufkins has several, especially the difference between its, which is possessive, and it’s, which is the conjunction of “it is.” I am always amused to learn these pet peeves. Mine is the incorrect use of their, there or they’re. It drives me batty.

Journalism majors take great pride in being able to point out grammatical errors. We flaunt our grammatical prowess like a male peacock flaunts his feathers, but why? Why is grammar so important? Why do we take such pride in being masters of grammar? The obvious answer is simple: it is important. Not to sound like a two-year-old, but why?

Author William Bradshaw perfectly explained the importance of grammar when he said it’s the foundation for good communication. Without grammar, your message won’t be as clear and may not be understood as you intended. What good is it when people don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate? Grammar helps you communicate your ideas.

There is a sad truth in our country: we may be native English speakers, but as a generation, we do not typically have mastery of our own language. Bradshaw pointed this out as the reason for writing his book on grammar. I suspect this is also the reason for the plethora of grammar articles and websites. Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal wrote about this problem leaking into the workplace. NBC News reported that Fortune 500 companies are spending $3 billion annually teaching basic English. I hate to be rude, but that is just sad.

I can’t stand it when someone cusses all the time. I used to joke that I’d buy regular cursers a dictionary so they could express themselves in a more intelligent manner. It’s not a joke anymore.

In public relations, where we deal with credibility and clear communication, proper use of grammar is vital. If we misuse grammar, or abuse the English language, people won’t see us, or those we represent, as credible. In addition, our communication won’t be as clear. Andrew Hindes wrote an excellent article listing six reasons why proper grammar is essential in public relations. He wrote that grammar gives credibility, shows professionalism, brings respect, provides clarity and convenience and helps with posterity.

I am constantly learning more about the English language and working to master grammar. I will never stop believing in its importance. Even after I’ve graduated, I want to continually improve. After all, there is always room to improve. Here are some of my favorite grammar resources:

Grammar Girl – Quick and Dirty Tips

Purdue Online Writing Lab

Daily Grammar

Writing Forward blog

Too Young to Understand

Childhood PhotoWhen I was a child, I was furious when people treated me like a child. I hated it when people talked down to me. I hated it when adults got to do stuff and I couldn’t because I was “too young.” I resented most authority merely because it meant I wasn’t the authority. I didn’t like being told what to do. Now that I’m an adult, even though I’m only 23, I see things from a different perspective. I can look back at my childhood and realize that adults were looking out for me. Yes, I still don’t appreciate people talking down to me, but I can see now that I was more vulnerable as a child and adults were protecting me. Regardless of how I felt about it, most of it was for my good.

Protection of children is a huge issue in advertising. There are debates on both sides, arguing that it is good or bad, ethical or unethical. A recent issue that’s sparked debate regarding child advertising involved Facebook’s ads to teenagers. Jeff Elder of the Wall Street Journal gave examples such as 14-17-year-old children seeing ads for concealed carry handgun holsters, nude webcam modeling and dieting pills. One of the ads for a new app apparently ended circulating a 14-year-old girl’s Facebook pictures to adult men on the web. According to Elder, Facebook changed its advertising policies and rules in 2011. Now, users from 13-17-years-old are more exposed. Although Facebook tries to protect young users to a certain extent, the fact that younger people see ethically compromising ads is troubling.

Child-targeted advertising didn’t start out as such an issue, but I believe advertising has expanded and along with its expansion comes worry. Currently, most issues with child-targeted advertising center around unhealthy foods.

In Sandra Calvert’s article on children and advertising, she pointed out two recent trends. First, children have more spending power, whether with their own money or that of their parents. Rebecca Clay explained that those under 12 spend $28 billion in a year, teenagers spend $100 billion and both influence another $249 billion of parental spending. The second trend is that advertising outlets and opportunities have increased in number. Child-targeted advertising has increased alongside these trends. Calvert pointed out that advertising is no longer limited to just television but is pervading almost every technology. Advertising is on the Internet, on social media, embedded into childhoodtelevision shows and games, etc. There are some regulations and protections from the government, but I don’t believe they are enough. Calvert wrote, “children live and grow up in a highly sophisticated marketing environment that influences their preferences and behaviors.”

I wouldn’t say that all child-targeted advertising is bad.  However, advertisements featuring nude models are bad, especially when young children are exposed to these ads. Advertisers should pay attention to the content of ads because of child vulnerability. Clay quoted psychologist Allen Kanner. He said, “Advertising is a massive, multimillion dollar project that’s having an enormous impact on child development.” In fact, Perri Klass wrote that children under the ages of seven or eight can’t differentiate advertising or identify what it tries to do. Another article in Children’s Central said children can’t understand “pervasive intent” until they’re in elementary school.

I think James Steyer expressed it perfectly when he said it’s not just what products are being sold but what messages advertisements send, specifically because the definition of who they are is still in formation.

In 2011, the Institute for Advertising Ethics (IAE) published its own Principles and Practices for Advertising Ethics. I believe many advertisers, including the recent example of Facebook, are not adhering to the fifth principle: “Advertisers should treat consumers fairly based on the nature of the audience to whom the ads are directed and the nature of the product or service advertised.” In the commentary, the IAE went into detail about children, touching on the same points I’ve presented. It touted that advertising to children needs to be under a more critical eye. It mentions their defenselessness, lack of maturity, lack of ability to evaluate the truth, and the vulnerability of being misled or unknowingly influenced. The IAE calls for the highest levels of ethical practice when advertising to children, and yet, children are still harmed and exposed to questionable and unethical ads.

Looking at this from a deontological standpoint, Facebook has not been ethical, nor have many child advertisers. These advertisers are not following rules laid down by their own institutions.

From the perspective of Immanuel Kant, or Kantian theory, actions are good if they come from good will. Advertisers are not advertising to children for good. They are advertising to children to get a piece of that buying power.

If seen through the lens of consequentialist ethics, it is also unethical. One could argue that advertising to children is wrong. I would say that certain advertisements to children are wrong. Clay described that children are going through an epidemic of materialism. She explained the belief that advertising to children has resulted in children convinced they aren’t happy or good enough unless they have the latest [insert any new product]. The consequences of many child advertisements are narcissistic children. Does anyone think this is good?

I don’t believe advertising to children is ethical unless it is truly there for the betterment of the child. If it’s working to educate the child, teach them truth, or get them interested in something beneficial, then it will be ethical in my book. My parents sheltered me from a lot of bad influences growing up. Sure, you could argue that I am out of touch with pop-culture. Sure, I was pretty mad about it when they always seemed to say “no,” but they wanted to protect me. Think about it from the perspective of the parent. If you were a mother or father, would you appreciate some of these examples above being shown to your child? How would define ethical or unethical advertisements?

Journalists, Not Aliens

ImageHave you ever heard the term “frozen rope” before? If you are a true fan of baseball, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Frozen rope refers to the perfect pitch. It should go exactly where the pitcher intended and do exactly what the pitcher wanted. It is like an imaginary frozen rope in the air: straight and perfectly placed. Yes, I am about to use the cheesy correlation between baseball pitches and media pitches, but in all reality, we should want our pitches to be like frozen ropes.

When pitching to the media, the information we send should go exactly where it should and do exactly what we intended. We want it to get to the right journalists and for them to act on it. Acting on information is my fancy way for saying “use the information to make a story.” In order to have this kind of media pitch, there are a couple of things we need to remember.

Before I start, I warn you that this is not a list of tips for the perfect subject line, how to SEO optimize your press releases, or even how many words to use. I think you could substitute “journalists” with a lot of other professions. This advice tears everything away and reveals that, like Ted Ives reminded us, journalists are human beings, not aliens, which brings me to the first point.

1. Remember that journalists are human beings, not aliens.

When writing a pitch to a journalist, remember that on the other side of the computer screen is a living, breathing human being. They are people, just like you and me. Don’t let an irrational fear of journalists hinder you from doing your best. Yes, they have a job to do, but they are not any different than you and me.

2. Treat them how you’d want to be treated.

Cheryl Conner, a Forbes contributing writer, had excellent guidelines for pitches. Some of them were not being pushy, not being annoying and being respectful. Hers is some of my favorite advice because it comes back to what I am trying to say. Journalists are people. We should treat them as such. If we were in their shoes, would we appreciate being pushed and prodded, annoyed and disrespected? The answer is an unequivocal “no.”

I mentioned Ted Ives above. He wrote that, “journalists are human beings – try to put yourself in their place to understand where they are coming from.” He had an excellent start. However, he immediately contradicted himself. He went from this, to saying, “Second, you have one goal and one goal only: to get the journalist on the phone. This requires calling over, and over, and over again until you get lucky enough to catch them at their desk.” I wanted to include the entire quote in hopes that you would be looking at the computer in a confused manner because it makes no sense. Calling incessantly does not line up with putting yourself in their shoes. Do not do this.

3. Get to know them.

Although you may not be able to get to know them in their personal life, you can get to know their work. Conner also suggested reading the writer’s work. Look at what they’ve done over the years. Make sure to pay close attention to what these journalists write about currently. My internship boss, Loren Bolton, had a conversation with me today about this topic. He suggested understanding a journalist’s passion. Know what they enjoy or what gets them fired up.

4. Build a relationship with them.

This one might seem a lot like the third point, but it’s slightly different. You can know things about someone and not have a relationship with them. I know things about actors and actresses when I check their biographies on IMDB. That doesn’t mean I have a relationship with them. How much more do you read emails from people you know than emails from random strangers? I agree with Miranda Miller when she explained it’s vital to form a relationship with journalists. She goes so far as to say “it just makes sense.”

In searching for advice, I found a company called Pitch Public Relations. On the website, it states, “When it comes to public relations, just remember this: ‘It’s all about the Pitch.” While I agree that pitching is vital, I would argue that it is only one part of a multifaceted career in public relations. What advice has helped you succeed in pitching to media?