Just before spring break, a schedule change forced me to cancel your quiz on the readings from Swann, Chapter 9. This week, we make up for lost ground.

This assignment has two parts. You are to complete both no later than 11:59 p.m., Sunday, April 3rd. This assignment has the value of 3 quizzes — or 30 points total. You may earn 10 bonus points by coming back to the conversation on Part Two and posting additional comments.  You will be asked to enter your name and email address. Don’t panic. The email WON’T be posted anywhere. You may use your full name, or simply choose and ID that’s clear, e.g., “William S.”

Part One (20 points)

Chapter 9 of Swann introduces you to two important areas of public relations practice.

Directions: Read the TWO blog posts linked to below. Then, based on what you’ve read and the comments others have posted, leave your own comment to fit into the conversation. Limit each comment to 150-200 words, but at the same time, make the comments substantive. Bring some insight to the discussion. It’s not enough to say, “I agree” or “I disagree” with whomever.

Also, make comments clear and grammatically correct. This isn’t email, it’s a class assignment, which means you will be held to a high standard of writing quality. You need only one comment on each post for this part of the assignment.

Use critical thinking as you consider these two issues.

  • Activist Communities. Swann says, “Activists are people who seek political, social or organizational change by targeting organizational policies or institutional behaviors through vigorous campaigning.” Activists tend to be passionate about their causes. They’re willing to take substantial risks to expose what they see as unjust or unsafe policies of business and government. Among the most visible activist groups are those espousing animal rights. And their favorite target is Big Agriculture.

Here’s a post about animal-rights activism: PR’s ethical dilemma: When should the chicken die?

  • Corporate Philanthropy. “By law,” Swann tells us “corporations are allowed to donate up to 10 percent of their earnings to charitable organizations.” But why would anyone give away one-tenth of the profits? Because it’s the right thing to do? Because it improves the corporation’s standing in the community? Or — is it simply a strategy to increase sales?

Here’s a post that raises the question: Are strategic philanthropy and cause marketing truly ethical?

Part Two (10 Points + Bonus)

To complete Part Two of the assignment, read on, and use the comment box below. You simply must read Chapter 9, then join the conversation. Post one intelligent comment and you’ll earn the full 10 points. All comments should reflect thorough understanding of the case being discussed and what your classmates are saying about it. Don’t be afraid to be first!

Guideline: This is blog conversation, so be brief. Make your posts substantive, but keep them under 200 words — or thereabouts.

Bonus: Come back to the conversation a day or two later and earn 5 bonus points for each additional comment you post — up to 10 extra points. Follow-up comments, as your initial one, must be substantive. But make them concise.

To be part of a conversation, you should arrive early and come back frequently. If you merely show up to post a comment the day before it’s due, no one really benefits. Nor will you :-)

I’ll get the ball rolling by asking a few questions about the readings. You need not address them all. Pick the one that interests you — and let’s see where this goes.

  • In the case, “It’s the Real Thing,” protesters were upset at the way artworks displayed at the Jewish Museum in New York City portrayed the Holocaust. If you had been PR director for the museum, how might you have advised the museum to manage the controversy?
  • When Wells College decided to admit men for the first time, in 2005, a majority of alumni were upset. What key messages you would have suggested the college use to communicate its rationale and to build support for this major change?
  • In the case involving John Hancock’s sponsorship of the Boston Marathon, is this sponsorship is a wise use of PR and marketing resources — millions of dollars in all? Why or why not?

I don’t want to risk sending these via email, since 4 attachments will sometimes send flag the message as “junk.”

Here are some samples to help you.  Three of the 4 are presented using traditional, bottom-of-the-page footnotes. The other uses APA style. You may go either way, but either way, but sure you follow proper format.

I find that most students aren’t familiar with traditional footnoting. If you’re not, use APA — the same as your textbook.

Hope this helps.

SampleA – EmbeddedReporters

SampleB – Framing (APA)



In our final blog discussion of the Scott book, we’ll focus on Chapter 19, “The New Rules for Reaching Media.” Sorta fits, right? I mean, this is a “Media Relations” class.

You’ve read the chapter, so I’m gonna leave this discussion to you.

Of all the lessons presented in Chapter 19, which one do you believe is the most important — and why?

You may post your own thoughts — or if you prefer, react to a classmate’s idea. But come back to this conversation, OK?

Your final online discussion assignment requires that you post TWO meaningful comments before 11:59 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 11. Please limit those comments to 2-3 paragraphs, or no more than 200 words.

I’m giving you lots of time, but if you jump in early, you have a chance to set the agenda. I’ll drop back on Sunday to see how you’re doing.

David Meerman Scott covers a lot of ground in Chapters 6 through 8. But our discussion this week focuses on Chapter 7 and Scott’s “New Rules for News Releases.”

Throughout Chapter 7, Scott argues that news releases aren’t just for the news media anymore. “Millions of people read press releases directly, unfiltered by the media,” he says.

His advice to professionals:

Don’t just send news releases when big news is happening; find good reasons to send them all the time.

Scott makes a great argument for direct-to-consumer news that bypasses the media gatekeeper. If we produce a high volume of news releases, we might better serve our most passionate stakeholders, and we’ll have greater control of the message. And if we optimize those releases with key words and tags, our clients will rise in the Google search rankings, too?

So what’s to discuss?

What about the traditional news media? Will we alienate them by flooding their RSS feeds with daily releases of marginal news value? Will an initiative to publish news releases “all the time” prompt mainstream editors to reject us?

If you believe the “New Rules of News Releases” could create problems with mainstream media, does it mean you must reject Scott’s idea entirely? Is there a way to serve both stakeholder groups? Or can we have it both ways?

You have the floor. Same as in the past — two comments to fulfill the discussion assignment.

In Chapter One, David Meerman Scott suggests “we are what we publish.” Under his “new rules” for marketing and advertising, our digital reputation is far more dependent on our own content than ever before. And thanks to social media (see Chapter 4), we have the ability to talk directly with customers and other stakeholders — if we’re willing to make the commitment.

One path to joining the conversations of the social Web is through blogging.

Scott recommends we begin the process by monitoring blogs to understand what they’re saying about us, and to learn the blogging culture. Next, he suggests we participate in the conversation by posting comments on blogs. Then, he recommends we work to build relationships with the bloggers who write about our clients, their products and their industries.

Finally, once we have established ourselves in that conversation, we can work to shape those conversations by writing our own blogs, thus joining the community known as the blogosphere.

Many companies have turned blogs into valued tools for interaction with stakeholders. Dell comes to mind, along with other major companies such as General Motors and IBM. And don’t forget the small entrepreneurs like English tailor Thomas Mahon and  blogging chef Shuna Fish Lydon.

So I got to thinkin’. What about blogging for Kent State? Does it make sense? If so, which stakeholder group or groups could we serve? Who should do the blogging (and would they)? And what should they blog about?

But most important, WHY should Kent State engage in the blogosphere? How will it benefit the university?

Let’s treat this discussion as an idea-posting session. You know, good old fashioned brainstorming.

Post your thoughts on how Kent State might benefit from blogging by Thursday at 11:59 p.m. Make it concise, but with enough detail for us to understand your idea. On your second post (by Sunday at 11:59 p.m.) come back to the conversation and comment on a classmate’s idea.

Remember, it’s important to identify a target audience, since one blog could never serve all of KSU’s constituencies. Have at it.

Class discussion for Media Relations & Publicity (JMC 58001). You are to post an initial comment based on the questions posed here. Then, come back a few days later, read the discussion, and post a second comment. You may post as often as you like, but only two comments are required for this exercise.

*          *          *

In “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” David Meerman Scott turns traditional media relations on its head. In fact, some of what you will learn from Scott contradicts practices you will learn in this class. So what’s the right answer?

Relax. David and I aren’t as far apart as you may think. I agree with David when he says marketers who create great Web content have a much better chance of reaching buyers while they are most interested. I also agree that interruption marketing” is largely a waste of time and money for all but the largest mass marketers — and even then I wonder.

And if you pay close attention on page 10, you’ll see that David and I also agree that media are still important in PR and marketing strategies. But media are now just one part of a much larger mix of communication.

But it’s hard to argue with the “new rules” laid out on page 22. And that’s where I’d like to start this discussion today by posing two questions for you to discuss with your classmates.

Question #1: Scott’s “new rules” say, “You are what you publish.” Do you agree with that notion as it pertains to PR and marketing? Why or why not? And to support your answer, include an example of a case to support your answer — one that that doesn’t appear in the book.

Question #2: On page 17, Scott presents a summary of Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail.”Anderson’s 2006 book, based on this 2004 article in Wired, is considered a seminar work on marketing on the social Web.

Review the original article and come back to this discussion. When you do, tell us about an organization or company — your choice — that you believe has benefited from marketing on the long-tail. Of course, it’s not fair to use one mentioned by Scott or Anderson. Be sure you include enough information so everyone will understand how your example fits TLT.

I look forward to joining the discussion. We might even start it in class tomorrow night.

I spent a good part of the weekend grading student writing assignments, so I’m entitled to a writing rant.

I’ve done this before. So let me start by sending you to “Darth Blogger’s Holiday Writing Rant” from last December. No sense in ranting it twice, eh?

OK, now that you’re back to the main post, here’s some stuff I didn’t cover last December. Commit it to memory:

Sentence length. Ideal sentence length to ensure comprehension is between 14 and 17 words. Once you pass 20 words, the sentence becomes harder to understand. Good writers vary the length and form of their sentences. But if you want people to get the message, keep things simple: Subject-verb-object.

No one cares what you think! Well, that’s not really true, but if you want to be an effective and persuasive writer, don’t qualify your points by saying “I think” or “In my opionion.” This essay titled “I think, therefore I stink” will help.

Most papers require 3 or 4 rewrites at minimum, then a final read to proof and polish. That’s 5 drafts — count ’em. The first round of papers from this semester have me wondering how many of you got past the second draft. Just sayin’.

A few more things that every PR student should know:

  • “Web” and “Internet” are proper nouns under the AP Style guidelines. Capitalize.
  • “However” is not an effective transition word, no matter what your English teachers told you. “But” is a lot more powerful, and it creates a sharper contrast.
  • Never open a paragraph with a pronoun, especially “this.” The reader may be scanning your copy and won’t understand the pronoun’s referent.
  • Avoid “ize” verbs. Don’t say “utilize” when “use” will do.

This discussion is for students in JMC 38002, Public Relations Case Studies, Spring, 2010. Others who wish to join this conversation about community relations are welcome, so long as you stay on topic. But this is a class assignment in which students are required to chime in.


On my other blog, I sometimes tangle with misguided marketers who see PR as nothing more than a subset of their discipline. They view PR as they do advertising or promotion: as a supporter of the sale.

They’re wrong, of course, but it’s not a good idea for you, as an intern or entry-level professional, to call them out on it. They can get pretty testy.

PR is not a branch of marketing. Rather, it serves management in  all areas of the organization, using communication and counsel to maintain the relationships and create the environment necessary to success. We often work with marketing folks, communicating with customers, distributors and media who can influence sales. But just as often we support functions such as employee communication or community relations — two areas of PR practice with no connection to marketing.

cr.gifToday’s focus is community relationships, which are vital to your future employers. Guth & Marsh, in their book, “Adventures in Public Relations,” remind us that communities come in different forms:

Geographic communities are clustered around a location like a university campus or a manufacturing plant. These are our physical neighbors.

Demographic communities are clustered around common traits such as culture, language or ethnicity. Depending on the client you work with, you may reach out to Hispanic, African American, Gay & Lesbian communities and others.

Psychographic communities form around lifestyles and attitudes. A local park system for example, may be concerned with communities of environmentalists, cycling enthusiasts or soccer players. Psychographic communities are self-selecting, based on the interests and passions of their members.

Virtual communities are defined by where they gather: on the Internet. And I’m not convinced that makes them a “category.” Most often, virtual communities are also geographic, demographic or psychographic. The fact that they meet on line is not a defining characteristic, but it will alter how we communicate with them and how we monitor their activities.

Knowing your community categories is less important than understanding where the interests of your your organization and community publics intersect. As G&M point out, our challenge is “to identify common interest and values — even with stakeholders with whom there is no prior relationship.”

Community relations is like every other PR challenge: You must know your publics and you must see the world through their eyes. Then, you must bring that perspective to management as you devise strategies for communication and policy. Remember the WIIFM?

Don’t forget, too, that maintaining relationships with communities is a balancing act. For example, the business community in Kent, Ohio, may support a plan by the university to build a conference center, apartment complex and retail space on Main Street. Local residents, on the other hand, may oppose you based on concerns about traffic, noise and parking — all quality-of-life issues. It’s often tough to strike a balance.

It’s all part of the “relationship wheel” we talk about in class. It’s all part of understanding that stakeholder groups have different needs in different contexts, and that those needs deserve a hearing at management’s table. It’s up to PR people to ensure that hearing. I mean, I doubt the accountants are gonna do it :-)

Does this sound anything like marketing to you? I didn’t think so.

Guth & Marsh list 6 “Key Considerations” to successful community relations:

  • Conduct stakeholder research
  • Define organization priorities
  • Think long term
  • Pick your partners carefully
  • Mirror the community
  • Remember employee ambassadors

Building bottom-line results into a community relations program will never be easy for a several reasons:

  • CR programs are long-term, so the changes we seek can’t be easily gauged month-to-month.
  • CR doesn’t always seek behavioral change, but instead to create an environment of trust and acceptance necessary to doing business.
  • CR has more to do with an organization’s ethics and values than its profits or business plans, and that makes it a tough sell at times.

Here are two Silver Anvil Award winners from PRSA that I’d like you to review. Relax. The summaries are just 3 pages long:

Some questions to ponder and discuss:

Discuss something you learned from the two Silver Anvil case studies.

How might companies get their employees involved in community relations — as is it worth it?

How can public relations professionals do a better job of measuring the outcomes of community-relations efforts?

…so this would be a great time to lend a hand to your PRKent friends and family.

Franklin Hall

For the past 15 years, we’ve tried to keep alumni in the loop using our “Friends of PRKent” email list. I didn’t do a good job with alumni communication this year for two reasons. First, there wasn’t much news to share. Second, there wasn’t much time to share it.

Most alums we heard from in 2009 were hanging on, hoping to ride out a tough recessionary economy and emerge with their jobs intact.

On our end, we hired a new colleague to take over our fledgling PR master’s program. And we’re in final planning stages to launch a fully online version of that master’s degree next fall. I’ll tell you about that real soon.

Back here in Franklin Hall, we’ve been reshaping all of our skills classes to assure content that’s on the cutting edge of Web 2.0, a moving target if there ever was one.

How can we help you? As 2010 approaches, we’d like your suggestions on how the faculty and the School of Journalism & Mass Communication can help you, both personally and professionally. Use the comments feature to tell us what you’re thinking.

Meantime, I hope you’ll connect with me and with your classmates. A few options:

PRKent Alumni & Friends Facebook Page

College of Communication & Information Facebook Page

Sledzik’s Blog: ToughSledding

Sledzik on Twitter

Stefanie Moore on Twitter

Wishing you all the best in the New Year.

“I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.”

Woodie Allen as Alvy Singer in “Annie Hall”

Thinking About Member Relations

As I prepared for this lesson in “member publics,” I made a list of my own memberships. You should do the same. What organizations do you join and what motivates you to do so? Stick with me, because this little tale gets at the reasons people, in their various life roles, voluntarily become members of organizations.

PRSA_logo_lgAs a professional, I belong to PRSA, but I’m also in four sub-groups of the Society including the Educator’s Academy, the College of Fellows, plus the Akron and Cleveland chapters.

Why PRSA? A true professional participates with and supports others in the field. PRSA is one of the forums where this can happen. I spend over $750 a year on PRSA activities, three times that if I attend national conference. And while I often question the high cost of membership, groups like PRSA make PR professionals more effective in their jobs. And there’s a good bit of value in that for me.

In my job as a Kent faculty member, I’m also a member of AAUP, the union that represents us and ensures that we don’t work for minimum wage. Don’t laugh! It could happen. aaup.gif It’s not cheap being a union member, about $600 a year, but without AAUP, we’d have no power to negotiate when the next contract expires, and we’d never get a fair shake from those who run the university. (OK, that’s my belief. I can’t prove it.)

Union membership protects my financial interests and it helps provide job security. Unions enforce a balance in the relationship between management and labor. In an ideal world they wouldn’t be necessary. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and not all relationships are symmetrical.

aaa.gifAt home I recently joined AAA, mostly because I want to use the travel agency, but also so my bride will have emergency road service if she needs it. I also belong to the Sandy Lake Association, a group of folks who own homes alongside my own. Both memberships enhance — or at least promise to enhance — my quality of life.

My passions also become memberships. I’m a tree hugger, and I love and respect animals, even those I eat. So outside the office I’m a member of the Cleveland Zoo, nwflogo.gifNature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation and National Parks Foundation. Locally, I’m a member of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Assn. Oh, I’m also a bit of a gun nut, thus my membership in the NRA, which leads most people to think I’m a total lunatic. That’s cool. Keeps ’em guessing, eh?

Key issues related to “member relations”

Why Memberships? Different motivations drive each of us to join and to support organizations. As Guth & Marsh point out in their book, “Adventures in Public Relations,” we’re a “nation of joiners.”  And public relations plays a big role in shaping people’s motivation to join organizations. Once members are on board, public relations provides the communication strategies and tactics to serve those members, and to maintain their loyalty.

For the most part, memberships are entirely discretionary. That is, we join them by choice, and we leave them by choice. In most cases, our lives are just fine whether we’re members or not. So the PR pro within any membership organization must clearly communicate the “value message” or people won’t remain in the organization, or worse, won’t join at all.

Why do all these organizations exist? To serve their members. Some educate, some lobby, some serve as networks for personal or professional growth. But every membership organization must deliver value, and that value must be communicated and also accepted.

Membership organizations engage in public relations as most any business would. They do research to understand stakeholder needs and concerns. They scan the environment for issues and events that affect their stakeholders. They set goals and objectives, they write plans, they implement plans.

You’ll find that member organizations, because they’re often dispersed geographically, tend to rely more on websites and on printed publications more so than businesses do. Your boss can call a meeting or conference call. AAA, with 43 million members, delivers most of its value using online tools, or with magazines and newsletters.

It’s tough to fit ’em all in a conference room, know what I mean?

Organizations use the communication tactics that best serve their members and that best fit the messages they need to deliver. That means you gotta know your audience. Personally, I don’t get much value from PRSA’s website, but I get a great deal from its daily email news updates. Those babies save me tons of research time. I attend PRSA’s national conference every 4 or 5 years, but I get far more from attending monthly chapter meetings on a local level or simply from having other local members in my network.

When PRSA stops providing value, I’ll stop paying my dues. So far, I’m still getting a decent return on investment — but that could change.

Where PR fits

I’m sure you can see by now where PR professionals fit into membership organizations. As writers we produce the bulk of communication materials for all of the organization’s media. We provide website content, we produce the magazines, newsletters and the position papers. We do media relations, too, since mainstream media coverage is often important to create awareness and to educate people about the organization’s mission.

Meetings and conferences are a big part of many membership organizations, so think about this career track if you want to be an events person. Conferences enable members to learn and to network, but they’re also a major revenue source for sponsoring organizations. Some events have gone virtual, as Web technology makes it easier and cheaper for us to “gather” online rather than at a conference site.

Meet Captain Underpants

One of your “reserve” readings deals with the American Library Association. It’s titled “Libraries, Underpants, and the 1st Amendment.”

captainunderpantscover.jpgIn this case, the American Library Association launches a campaign to fight book bans. On the list of potentially “dangerous” books were Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Oh yeah. Let’s not forget Captain Underpants, another great American novel. Tightey-whiteys!

If you believe in the First Amendment and personal freedoms, you may be offended by book-banning campaigns. You may even find them irrational. But book bans remain a very real threat to the organizations like the ALA — a threat that calls for deft use public relations.

A key lesson. Go back to the Smith text, this time to Step 4. Note how the library association established three levels of objectives — awareness, acceptance and adoption. Then the association implemented tactics to support each one. An aggressive publicity campaign worked to raise public awareness. Media coverage, combined with controlled media messages, worked to educate and to gain public support (acceptance) for the idea. Special events, held at the local level, supported with an events package from the national organization, got people engaged and acting on the problem (behavior change).

I’m intrigued by this case in part because I don’t understand groups that work to limit our freedoms. When a person or a group works so hard to impose their values and morals on the rest of us, I push back. But they keep pushing, too.

So be on your guard, and remember that these groups are part of the open society in which you and your clients must operate. They’ll drive you nuts (arrgh!) if you let ’em. But when they target your organization, you must respond.

I did a post on what I call “irrational” attacks. If that post interests you, check this one from Jim Horton, along with his follow-up. Jim’s way smarter than I am, but that’ll become apparent if you follow his blog.

Interested in this topic? Check out these blogs:

Were this a lecture and discussion, here’s where I’d summarize key points. Not today. Instead, why don’ t you summarize for me. Tell me what you took away from this lesson.


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